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

Richard Bledsoe and Michele Bledsoe

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

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“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.

 

 

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

 

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

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

-Jeff Koons

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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” 

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Awww

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Jeff Koons, Poseur 

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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. 

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Over inflated: Wiener Dog Art 

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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 

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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

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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.

STUDIO: Collaborative Painting with Richard and Michele-Part 4, Completion

Michele Bledsoe and Richard Bledsoe “Tusk”

acrylic on canvas, 12″ x 6″ 

 

“The Remodernist artist formulates expressions of personal liberty in pursuit of higher meaning and significance.”

The Remodern America Manifesto 

Our first collaborative painting has been completed, and actually has been displayed in two shows so far.

Michele and I both created our own painting in our own unique style, but allowed a dialogue to form by the interaction of our individual efforts.

Michele compared it to having a conversation.

The process of working on a piece together was so enjoyable that we will continue to collaborate. We hope to someday have a show of just our shared pieces. Watch this space for future updates.

 

Read the series:

STUDIO: Collaborative Painting with Richard and Michele-Part 1

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STUDIO: Collaborative Painting with Richard and Michele-Part 2

 

STUDIO: Collaborative Painting with Richard and Michele-Part 3

 

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 

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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″ 

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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

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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” 

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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” 

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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” 

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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) 

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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

COMMENTARY: Establishment Art’s Ingrained Indoctrination and the Postmodern Manifesto

EDIT: March 23, 2018. I’m so excited, we are going to see Jordan Peterson speak on June 1. He’s done much to expose Postmodern corruption in the culture. In honor of the upcoming event, I’m reposting a previous essay on the topic. 

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Maurizio Cattelan “L.O.V.E.” marble, 36′

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“There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says ‘Morning, boys. How’s the water?’ And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes ‘What the hell is water?'”

-David Foster Wallace, Postmodern novelist

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The quote above does a good job converting the rhetorical question “Does a fish know it is is wet?” into a lightly amusing anecdote, a brief fable which delivers its twist ending of wisdom as if it were the punchline for a joke. What’s not so funny is the truth that the story demonstrates, and its implications for the state of our civilization today.

To understand the crisis we find ourselves in, it’s instructive to look at the cultural assumptions and preferences of our so-called ruling classes. Their presumptions can be tracked based on the visual art they collude to promote and subsidize. The contemporary art market is another weapon in their arsenal, a way they can inflict their will on society in the form of punishment, disorder, degradation, divisiveness, and heavy handed instruction.

In the recent past George Orwell was able to advance an accurate definition: “Liberal: a power worshipper without power.” But what happened in the meantime was the forces of liberalism/progressivism/Marxism/whatever-they’re-calling-themselves-now-ism managed to drag the cultural focus onto favorable terrain for themselves. Our would-be masters have woven a make-believe world where their particular skill sets dominate; for decades their influence has metastasized throughout our institutions. Art just happens to be a field where it’s easy to see the damage they’ve caused. We are enmeshed in the Matrix-like reign of a toxic philosophy which can referred to by the ambiguous term Postmodernism.

It seems so simple, just a description for what happened after the Modern age. Even though many people still refer to any recent baffling example of artistic excess as Modern art, the underlying principles that made art (and by extension our culture) Modern have been dead since the 1960s. Postmodernist thought started in academia, but has since bled out so its dogma now dominates our politics, media, and especially the arts.

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Barbara Kruger “Belief & Doubt” installation, The Hirshhorn Gallery, Washington D.C.

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I’ve written before on how elitists push this ideology because it makes an effective tool of oppression. To be Postmodern is to be relativistic, cynical, narcissistic, and conformist. For those who might question such an interpretation, we are fortunate to have a document found posthumously among the papers of one of the leading advocates of this world view,  French writer Jacques Derrida (July 15, 1930 – October 9, 2004). Hugely influential amongst those susceptible to such pedantic banter, he pretty much summed up his accomplishments with this quote: “I’m no good for anything except taking the world apart and putting it together again (and I manage the latter less and less frequently).”

Derrida left behind a statement that bluntly summarizes the intentions of Postmodernism. I would suggest these days his ideas are like the water that we fish are ignorant of; propaganda so widely disbursed and unquestioned it’s invisible to us, even as we move through it, and are carried along by its flow.

Here is Derrida’s manifesto of Postmodernism: read it, and weep. Afterwards I give my thoughts on some of its precepts, and how I see us getting out of this mess.

Manifeste

1. The art of the past is past. What was true of art yesterday is false today.

2. The Postmodern art of today is defined and determined, not by artists, but by a new generation of curators, philosophers and intellectuals ignorant of the past and able to ignore it.

3. Postmodernism is a political undertaking, Marxist and Freudian.

4. Postmodernism is a new cultural condition.

5. Postmodernism is democratic and allied to popular culture.

6. Postmodernism denies the possibility of High Art.

7. Postmodernism deconstructs works of High Art to undermine them.

8. Postmodernism is subversive, seditiously resembling the precedents it mimics.

9. Postmodern art is pastiche, parody, irony, ironic conflict and paradox.

10. Postmodern art is self-consciously shallow, stylistically hybrid, ambiguous, provocative and endlessly repeatable.

11. Postmodern art is anti-elitist, but must protect its own elitism.

12. To the Postmodernist every work of art is a text, even if it employs no words and has no title, to be curatorially interpreted. Art cannot exist before it is interpreted.

13. Postmodernist interpretation depends on coining new words unknown and unknowable to the masses, on developing a critical jargon of impenetrable profundity, and on a quagmire of theory with which to reinforce endowed significance. Vive le Néologisme!

Long live the new word-ism? No thanks. we’ve had more than enough.

Some comments:

“The art of the past is past. What was true of art yesterday is false today.”

Says who? No one I recognize as any kind of authority.

“The Postmodern art of today is defined and determined, not by artists, but by a new generation of curators, philosophers and intellectuals ignorant of the past and able to ignore it.”

This plays into the Leftist conceit of the New Class: that in the Utopia to come, Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others, and they get to call the shots. It is the dream of every progressive to join this most favored status clique.

To deny history is to deny any accountability for their achievements, any objective measure of their performance. So self-serving.

“Postmodernism is a political undertaking, Marxist and Freudian.”

Of course it is. The culture must be sacrificed to avenge their feelings of envy and inadequacy.

“Postmodernism denies the possibility of High Art.”

They deny it because they lack the means to accomplish it. Sour grapes.

“Postmodern art is self-consciously shallow, stylistically hybrid, ambiguous, provocative and endlessly repeatable.”

Real art is deep enough to support extended contemplation. It makes a definitive presence. Ambiguity is wishy washy compared to evoking enduring Mystery. To provoke is a minor reaction compared to inspiring. There is a magic inherent in the unique object made by human hands, heart, and mind working in conjunction each other.

Post modern art basically fails to actually function as art in every significant way.

“Postmodern art is anti-elitist, but must protect its own elitism.”

Postmodernists attempt to deny judgement, ratings of quality and effectiveness, because their own offerings are so feeble. The elitism they draw upon is the status in the herd, the correct observations of the obligatory declarations of loyalty and subservience to the hive mind, and the opportunity to bask in the reflected glory of their controllers.

“Postmodernist interpretation depends on coining new words unknown and unknowable to the masses, on developing a critical jargon of impenetrable profundity, and on a quagmire of theory with which to reinforce endowed significance…”

Real intelligence actually communicates very clearly and concisely. What the Postmodernist suggests is like mumbling to hide the fact you don’t know the answers. This world of sophistry and distraction is crumbling. The elitists are panicking, and attempting to convert their minions into shock troops to protect the status quo hierarchy.

banksy

From Banksy, the anonymous millionaire creator of half-baked editorial cartoons 

The perpetrators of Postmodernism have gone beyond parody with their ridiculous posing, but it’s no longer harmless. From on high, the supplicants of the art world are receiving their orders: the culture must stop changing so the current power brokers remain in charge.

The obedient little fishes synchronize swim down the polluted stream issuing from practically every channel, doing the bidding of smug social media giants, partisan networks, repressive universities, biased newspapers, establishment politicians, empty headed celebrities, corrupt Hollywood, despotic foreign governments, and compromised corporations.

At the same time the little fishes flatter themselves that they are brave rebels, fighting the power. That’s what their masters are telling them that they are.

That disconnect takes an especially determined kind of ignorance.

shia

Exhibit A: Shia Lebeouf, being divisive

There is already a sound artistic philosophy ready to take the place of the defeated dead end of Postmodernism.

Remodernism is a reboot of the culture. It takes the energy, vitality and exuberance of the Modern era and integrates art back into the mainstream. Remodernism reverences art as a means to bring communion and connection. Billy Childish and Charles Thomson created an open source art movement which is in perfect sync with this new era of renewal.

Come on in, the water’s fine.

 “Remodernism discards and replaces Post-Modernism because of its failure to answer or address any important issues of being a human being.”

-Billy Childsh and Charles Thomson, The Remodernist Manifesto

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

 

STUDIO: Collaborative Painting with Richard and Michele-Part 2

A Collaborative Painting by Richard and Michele Bledsoe: Taking Form

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The collaboration continued. We very quickly determined the needed dynamic. We are opposites in so many ways.

Michele worked on the painting for much longer periods of time than I did. She is a meticulous, slow painter. She laid out her drawing in detail on the canvas, in raw umber, using tiny brushes.

I worked fast, laying in big areas, keeping the drawing loose and crude at first. I introduced color right away, covering over my drawing to build up new layers, using big harsh bristle brushes.

Yes, we are opposites in so many ways. We balance each other. To make this work in the form of a painting is an exciting part of this project.

 

It’s all a base coat, for now 

 

Read the series – STUDIO: Collaborative Painting with Richard and Michele-Part 1

ARTICLE: The Death of University Art Programs, Part 4: The Subsidized Sedition of Establishment Art Schools

 

No “Social Practice” Art is complete without selfies 

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Mark Twain once observed ““The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” The same analogy can be applied to the almost right and right principles of “social justice” versus “justice.”

“Social Justice” claims to be about fairness, which is a highly desirable outcome. But the term is a manipulative Newspeak euphemism for envy, revenge and oppression.  What social justice actually does is crush people into group identities which have been assigned favored and non-favored status by  power hungry establishment elitists. Preemptively claiming group guilt or privilege is an abstraction which does not recognize the actuality that people are individuals, responsible and accountable for their own actions. It’s the opposite of real justice.

We have come to call this collusion against the values of Western civilization Postmodernism. Social justice ideas are the propaganda our corrupt governing class uses to distract and inflame their mob rule shock troops. These cunning perpetrators use art as one of the weapons in their arsenal to undermine the rule of law. The totalitarians utilize their money and connections to enforce the results they want. Our universities are willing accomplices to this abuse of the arts.

Artnet reports on their latest maneuver:  “Yale School of Art Launches New Art and Social Justice Initiative” . They positively preen about it:

“The program, developed by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Dean of the Yale School of Art, Marta Kuzma, is funded by a recent $750,000 donation from an anonymous Yale alum. The money will be put toward research, scholarships, projects, and other academic resources across the graduate school of art, as well as a series of lectures and panels open to the whole university, aimed at exploring the intersection of art and social engagement.

“The initiative is largely a product of an ongoing conversation between faculty (Kuzma, in particular) and graduate students about addressing issues around artistic production amid the current social and political climate. This is, however, part of a larger trend, with numerous MFA programs reframing themselves around ‘social practice’ art.”

The fraud committed is exposed in the first line of the New York Times article Artnet linked: “Carmen Papalia’s M.F.A. project doesn’t look much like art.” A blind student led a bunch of virtue signalling lemmings on a closed eye tour. In true millennial style, the participants made sure to broadcast their  panic attacks and subsequent engorged wokeness.
Such gestures don’t look like art because they are not art. An exercise in generic consciousness raising  has nothing to do with a skilled and insightful personal expression of spiritual values. It’s a gimmick, a publicity stunt to advertise the politically correct values of the participants.
Postmodernists thinks they can use language and prestige to reprogram the fundamental needs of humanity. The establishment wants to redefine the timeless experience of art into knee jerk genuflections before the idol of Social Justice. In my upcoming book, “Remodern America: How the Renewal of the Arts Will Change the Course of Western Civilization,” I note the following:

“In the blind alleys we were directed into, the criteria being used to evaluate the works seemed on the surface completely arbitrary. But in fact, the feebler the efforts were, the more opportunities it gave to launch into peripheral diatribes regarding half-baked sociology, aggravated psychology, convoluted technobabble and the like. This was the kind of talk that got these teachers really excited, subtly reinforcing that this was where our attention ought to be focused. They were indoctrinating us into the Postmodern way.

“Rewarding certain behaviors encourages more of those types of behaviors. And so most students were dutifully herded into producing slapdash experimental works, and talking about activism, therapy and pedantic minutia, rather than trying to understand if an artwork functioned effectively on its own terms, as art. It was easier to adopt the lofty lecturing tone of the instructors, to curry favor by asserting the approved beliefs and attitudes.

“Encouraging attitudes of grievance and victimization, or highlighting incidental matters of process or technique, does not lead to powerful art. But it does lead to the generation of thought police, dependent personality disorder types, and detached technocrats—all useful cogs for the Leftist machine. The indoctrination continues.”

The New Aristocracy of the Well Connected are desperately funneling resources to maintain their current dominance. This anonymous Yale grant is just the latest example of Postmodernism’s key priority: controlling the narrative. It won’t work. Contemporary art is undergoing a crisis of relevance.  Pouring money into training a new generation to create non-art for the SJW scene will only make our current culture industries more irrelevant than ever.

See the previous articles in The Death of University Art Programs series linked below:

Part 1: Eric Fischl

Part 2: The Corcoran Collapse 

Part 3: Ignorance as a Method of Critique 

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