ARTICLE: Another Big Lie of the Contemporary Art World Revealed

John Latham “Time Base Roller”

Make some effort to try to understand the works, you bumpkins

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IT’S HARD TO MISINTERPRET SOMETHING WORSE THAN ART CRITIC TABASH KHAN DOES, IN THIS ARTICLE: Fad Magazine’s What’s Wrong With Art? Conceptual Art Is Complicated.

“So why are people put off by conceptual art? Often it’s because the artist or gallery hasn’t taken any steps to explain the concepts behind the work. Most visitors to galleries would happily make some effort to try to understand the works but are often only provided with a convoluted press release that includes a line about the work speaking for itself — when it clearly doesn’t.

“For these reasons many visitors will often not engage with the works and be snootily labelled by art world insiders as ‘not getting it’.”

In case you haven’t followed the stultifying degeneration of the contemporary art scene,  you might not know Conceptual Art has been the Next Big Thing for about 50 years now. In Conceptual Art, the idea is now an “artist” only needs to have an idea. The actual object can be made by someone else, or be an already existing common object put into a new artistic context,  or maybe even not be made at all, but only exist as a documented thought. If a new tangible object is produced, it’s likely been farmed out to anonymous technicians who have actual skills. But it’s the name brand artist who takes the credit and the big money. The lack of actual ability and accomplishment is disguised by lots of pseudo-intellectual academic jargon, designed to obscure rather than illuminate.

Writer Tom Wolfe, in his classic take down of the art world, The Painted Word, had these pretenders pegged back in 1975:

“…there, at last, it was! No more realism, no more representation objects, no more lines, colors, forms, and contours, no more pigments, no more brushstrokes. …Art made its final flight, climbed higher and higher in an ever-decreasing tighter-turning spiral until… it disappeared up its own fundamental aperture…”

Khan gives the game away in his article, but does not seem to realize it:

“After all, the godfather of conceptual art, Marcel Duchamp’s concepts weren’t particularly complex. By placing a urinal in a gallery he was questioning how you define what art is, and whether the artist and the setting give weight to an artwork. Philosophical questions which are still relevant today.”

What Marcel Duchamp did-besides probably stealing the credit for his most infamous work from a mentally ill woman artist– was twist art from a vibrant, visceral experience into an ironic elitist assertion. The date of R. Mutt’s toilet in the gallery was 1917. It’s literally been a hundred years, and the establishment art world is all in on simply creating variations on the same old tired shock tactics.

Conceptual superstar Damien Hirst

This is different because it’s a toilet and a dead animal

Khan nails it when he says Duchamp (or whoever it really was) was not complex. Where he gets it so wrong is assuming that words can be used to justify the inadequate offerings of our corrupted cultural institutions.

Khan obviously believes art needs an enlightened priest caste to transmogrify and translate art for the ignorant peasants. It’s an arrogant assumption very prevalent inside the art world bubble. The Postmodern creative class blames the audience instead of looking at their own failures to communicate and connect.

Art does have a philosophical element to it-but it is so much more than that. And words can never act as a substitute for a visual experience which moves and inspires. Ultimately art is a mysterious, timeless expression that cannot be reduced to language. If we could say it, we wouldn’t have to show it to you.

The art world rebels the Stuckists know the truth. At the core of their principled stand for an art of the people, by the people, for the people, they state a truth we can hold to be self evident:

“Art that has to be in a gallery to be art isn’t art.”

-The Stuckist Manifesto

 

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

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1917: A Shattering Discovery From The Year Art Went Into The Toilet

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What happened to R. Mutt’s “Fountain”?

For the last few days, inside the cocoons, there is much shock. As out-of-touch elitists in the would-be ruling class are processing an historic rejection of their presumptions, it’s worth revisiting a defining and divisive moment in elitist art history.

Recently, in some random reading I was doing, I came across a surprising story that may actually solve a genuine art world mystery.

I’m very critical of the nihilistic stylings of the contemporary establishment art market. I’ve written at length on its dynamic as both an elaborate con game and as an insidious effort at social programming and control.  Conceptual Art is the official art of the New World Order. Talentless cynics like Jeff Koons and Tracey Emin are promoted as pinnacles of achievement, and showered with elitist money and accolades. These conceptual artists claim that just having an idea is good enough to be considered art, as long as the right people agree.

The conceit of conceptual art, like most of the abuses of this decadent Post Modern era, comes from a thirst for power. Anything can be art if the gatekeepers say it is, and you better submit to their superior opinions. Contemporary art has become a wedge, a means for primitive tribal virtue signalling. You can divide the population up based on savvy insiders who prattle on about a dirty, unmade bed in a museum as a fascinating comment on normative functionalism, versus those mundane types who recognize a feeble failure when they see it.

A certain segment of the glitterati like to flaunt their ability to see shit as sophisticated art as a badge of honor, for some reason.

We are coming up on the 100th anniversary of the totem these poseurs use as credibility for their if-it’s-in-a-gallery-it-must-be-art attitudes. In April 1917, New York City’s Society of Independent Artists had an egalitarian idea for an art show: anyone who paid the fee could show their art, which would be hung in alphabetical order. But the organizers were shocked when they received an anonymous submission, called “Fountain.” It was a sideways urinal, signed “R. Mutt 1917.”

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Marcel Duchamp, sporting a reverse mohawk

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One of the organizers was French artist Marcel Duchamp. When the committee balked at showing the urinal he resigned in a huff. Years later he spread it around that it was actually his piece.”Fountain” was a Dada assault on taste, a rejection of artistic skill, an undermining of the noble purposes of art. Duchamp and his advocates like to say it poses philosophical questions about what art is. Regardless, the piece can be seen as the harbinger of the whole empty, alienating, transgressive mess the contemporary art world has become. “Fountain” has been used as the justification for turning art into an ironic elitist assertion, rather than an uplifting communal experience. It’s a truly nasty legacy.

But did Duchamp even make the piece? Evidence suggests he stole credit for the piece from a female artist, Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, an wildly eccentric friend of his. She was part artist and part public nuisance, an exhibitionist, kleptomaniac and poet, who often dressed herself in food and utensils. The urinal would have been just her style.

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The real R. Mutt? Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven

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On April 11, 1917, Duchamp wrote in a letter to his sister: “One of my female friends who had adopted the pseudonym Richard Mutt sent me a porcelain urinal as a sculpture; since there was nothing indecent about it, there was no reason to reject it.” So it seems while he may have submitted it to the show, Duchamp was not the one who came up with this iconic gesture. By the time Duchamp started to claim “Fountain” as his own, the mentally ill Baroness was long dead and forgotten.

It would match Duchamp’s character to perform such a swindle; he lived his adult life sponging off of, using, and abusing a series of women. He really was a cad.

It is so fitting the impetus of our contemporary establishment art world is most likely based on lies, theft, corruption and exploitation. But the originator of the piece is not the mystery I’m writing about.

What happened to the original “Fountain”?

Avant-garde gallery owner Alfred Stieglitz snapped a picture of it, but we are told the original was lost. The versions of “Fountain” now on display in museums around the world are “replicas” Duchamp commissioned in the 1960s to cash in on the notorious reputation of the piece.

I just found a surprising clue to what happened to “Fountain” in an unexpected place, while I was reading about a very different type of artist.

William Glackens (March 13, 1870 – May 22, 1938) was a significant painter in the early decades of the 2oth century. He got his start as an artist journalist. Before there were photographs in newspapers, illustrators had to create the imagery. They had to work fast, and since they were covering the news, they were used to depicting the common people as opposed to esoteric artistic subject matter. Glackens’s most notable journalistic work occurred in 1898, when he accompanied Theodore Roosevelt’s troops to Cuba during the Spanish American War.

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William Glackens artwork from the field of battle

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After he left journalism, Glackens continued to make an art of the people, as compared to an art of the Academy. He was a key figure of the early American art movements The Eight and The Ashcan School, realist painters that rebelled against the stuffy elitist attitudes of the art establishment of their era. Glackens and his colleagues were considered controversial and gauche at the time for their depictions of everyday life.

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William Glackens “The Shoppers”

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I love reading artist biographies. So when I was recently at the library and saw on the shelf William Glackens and the Eight: The Artists Who Freed American Art, I was very excited. I knew about him and the Ashcan School, and I see the art movement Remodernism as fulfilling a similar role for artistic renewal now.

The book is by his son Ira Glackens, written in 1957. It is full of amusing and affectionate anecdotes about both of his parents; William was married to socialite and artist Edith Dimock. She is the central figure depicted in the painting of the shoppers above.

As William Glackens was one of the most important artists of his day, he was involved in many major events. I was thrilled when Ira Glackens wrote about when he was a little boy, during the legendary 1913 Armory Show that introduced Modern Art to America. He met visionary painter Albert Pinkham Ryder there, one of my favorite artists. But I was stunned when he recounted a story about 1917.

William Glackens was the president of the Society of Independent Artists committee that received “Fountain.” Another artist on the committee along with Duchamp was Charles Prendergast. Here are Ira’s words about how the  “Fountain”  situation was resolved:

It would be difficult to visualize W.G. [William Glackens] in an executive capacity, but nevertheless he proved a very valuable man, especially when an impasse was reached. The story of how he solved a great dilemma that confronted the executive committee was later told by Charles Prendergast, and he laughed so hard telling it that the tears ran down his cheeks… Everybody perhaps knows the story of the “Fountain” signed R. Mutt, a nom de guerre of Marcel Duchamp which the creator of the “Nude Descending a Staircase” submitted as his entry. This object was a urinal, a heavy porcelain affair meant to be a fixture, and it caused a great deal of dismay in the executive committee…The executive committee stood around discussing the thorny problem. Presumably the best art brains in the country were stumped.

Nobody noticed W.G. leave the group and quietly make his way to a corner where the disputed object d’ art sat on the floor beside a screen. He picked it up, held it over the screen, and dropped it. There was a crash. Everyone looked around startled.

“It broke!” he exclaimed.

By the 1950s when this book was written Duchamp had appropriated credit for “Fountain,” but it had not yet become the cultural touchstone it is now considered. I see no reason why Ira Glackens would just invent a story like that, or why their family friend and fellow artist Charles Prendergrast would say such a thing about the mild mannered and low key William Glackens for no reason.

We now have some hearsay evidence about what happened to the original “Fountain,” which has been overlooked for decades. There’s no way to prove it, but it’s a compelling conclusion to a sordid tale. As far as I’m concerned, William Glackens was on the right track and did the world a favor. If only it had ended there.

The pissy head games of elitist art need smashing, now more than ever.

11/22: Welcome Instapundit readers! Check out some of my other posts to see more about the state of the arts from a Remodernist perspective. -RB

ARTICLE: Michele Bledsoe in “The Labyrinth Beyond Time”

michelebledsoe

Creatures Great and Small: Michele Bledsoe with her painting “Under the Pillow”

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I’ve written a number of times on the amazing creativity of my wife, artist Michele Bledsoe. 

Michele was recently the featured artist in an article in The Foothills Focus, a weekly newspaper focused on life in north Phoenix and its environs.

Read the article at this link: “The Labyrinth Beyond Time,” by Shea Stanfield.

The writer does a great job summing up the spirit of Michele’s painting by referencing a quote from Marcel Duchamp: “To all appearances, the artist acts like a mediumistic being who, from the labyrinth beyond time and space, seeks his way out to a clearing.” Stanfield goes on to relay significant details about Michele’s experiences and attitudes towards art:

“She filled tablets with sketches and ideas that bound through her imagination. Creatures great and small would eventually be rendered in paintings as she taught herself the techniques. By all accounts, Michele has been successful on all fronts. Today, she paints in her home studio in Central Phoenix, her canvases supported on an easel her father gave her for Christmas 25 years ago. His passing a few months later added an extra portion of meaning to his gift and confidence in her, as well as Michele’s inspiration.”

The art of Michele Bledsoe does indeed navigate a special vision, her own enchanting world apart. It was a pleasure to read this article’s commentary acknowledging her achievements.

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Forever (2)

From the article:

“Michele, over the last 20 years, has exhibited in various art galleries and venues.  Recently, she was invited to participate in an art show, at Skolkovo Art Gallery, in Moscow, Russia. The exhibit featured a number of international artists involved in the Remodernism Movement. As Michele would put it, ‘Who would have believed my painting “Forever,” a painting of a snail, is the one piece, out of all my work, that has ironically traveled furthest!’”

ARTICLE: Is A New Golden Age Coming to The Art World?

Dada Baroness

Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven: Will the real R Mutt Please Stand Up?

 

I’D SAY IT’S BEEN A LOT LONGER THAN THAT: The Art World’s 60-Year Rut: Could A New Golden Age Be On The Horizon?

In which the author of the article produces this key quote: “The fact is, golden ages don’t happen when exclusivity rules. Just the opposite. They come when the gates and chains controlling consumption, competition, production, barriers to entry, and innovation have been smashed to pieces, allowing more people to participate in more ways—both as producers and consumers.

“So, as the art world dogmas appear increasingly quaint in our era of disruption, here’s hoping that a new time for artists, art and design to flourish, generate an excess of delight for the many and spark a broader conversation, still lies ahead.”

We’re coming up on a significant anniversary in 2017. It will be the 100 year anniversary of when the piece “Fountain” appeared-the sideways urinal submitted for consideration in a juried art show. Famed artist Marcel Duchamp appropriated the credit for this gesture much later, and so is lionized as the father of our contemporary art world. Oh, so irreverent, daring and clever!

In reality it seems very likely Duchamp stole the so-called glory for this piece from a female artist, Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, an eccentric  friend of his. The establishment is too invested in Duchamp’s reputation at this point to take a realistic look at this troubling situation. How fitting an act of deception and disrespect festers at the heart of what has driven elitist artistic concerns for decades.

I want to build momentum to use this impending centennial anniversary to force a reckoning on the art world, and to hold them accountable for their failures. There’s nothing novel in the tired shock tactics of the culture elitists. Dada is a dead end well past its expiration date;  ironic art fails to fulfill the function of art at all. It’s time for something new, which is actually something very ancient and enduring.

Billy Childish and Charles Thomson, founders of Stuckism, called this situation accurately in 2000, in the coda of their masterful Remodernism Manifesto:

“It is quite clear to anyone of an uncluttered mental disposition that what is now put forward, quite seriously, as art by the ruling elite, is proof that a seemingly rational development of a body of ideas has gone seriously awry. The principles on which Modernism was based are sound, but the conclusions that have now been reached from it are preposterous.

“We address this lack of meaning, so that a coherent art can be achieved and this imbalance redressed.

“Let there be no doubt, there will be a spiritual renaissance in art because there is nowhere else for art to go. Stuckism’s mandate is to initiate that spiritual renaissance now.”

The Golden Age can come, if we make it happen.

ARTICLE: Post-Postmodern Art

Snow Shovel

Marcel Duchamp: “Snow Shovel” for a snow job

ARTICLE: Post-Postmodern Art  Key quote from the article, and words to live by: “Duchamp and the others have become the iconic figures of recent art history. Through them, the story of the art world is a story of self-conscious disintegration. Once, however, everything has been disintegrated, every artist has a choice. He can choose to play the current game of cynicism and despair, hoping, at best, to introduce a minor variation here and there. Or he can look afresh at the world and rediscover in it the potential that earlier great artists pointed us toward.”

The savvy can already see the inevitable collapse of the current establishment art system, which was built up over a relatively recent time frame. It exists as a fragile bubble, kept inflated by its own hot air hype and wildly reckless speculation by well-moneyed but clueless dupes.

The vapid circus the elitists favor can only exist as a monopoly. Create a viable alternative, and watch the stampede for the exits, away from the banal trash the cultural institutions have been inflicting  on an increasingly alienated and disengaged populace for decades.

Question the assumptions that drive the power brokers. Today’s stellar careers, reputations, and investments will be tomorrow’s obscure footnotes, wiped out by the merciless but objective judgment of ever progressing time.

The current art world echo chamber is crumbling.  Lots of what gets made these days and presented as art cannot survive outside of the shrinking cultural institutional enclave. However, this is not the end of art, it’s the end of an adminstrative model that has failed to perform. It is being out-evolved.

This is not a cause for fear, it’s a cause for celebration. We are taking part in a major periodic shift of consciousness: exciting times. Remodernism, which recognizes art as an inclusive, spiritual, DIY activity, provides one path forward. Doubtless there are others. But art is about to take an incredible leap forward, and reengage with society in a way it hasn’t in decades.