ARTICLE: The Death of University Art Programs, Part 3: Ignorance as a Method of Critique

Professor Walter Gaudnek: He recommended an anatomically correct, if not politically correct, addition

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“You should just paint a vagina on it, it would be much better,” Walter Gaudnek, the professor, is accused of telling an undergraduate last semester. “You can’t paint the Virgin Mary like this, she would be fucking pissed,” he added, according to a letter of instruction placed in his personnel file and provided to Inside Higher Ed via an open-records request. News of the letter was originally reported by The Orlando Sentinel.

-LINK to the ARTICLE: Critique vs. Harassment by Colleen Flaherty

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So I don’t know how this guy beat the normal witch hunt that gets whipped up every time someone offends a special snowflake student with a questionable comment. Professor Gaudneck is getting off light, with a slap on the wrist it seems. Perhaps it has something to do with the bigotry of low expectations for university arts programs. In the article another art professor comments as far as standards go, “art is ‘a low-coherency field in which experts routinely disagree about even foundational principles…’”

With colleagues like that, who needs enemies? Low coherency indeed.

Perhaps there is some anti-Christian bias working in his favor here. Without seeing the student work in question, it’s hard to know the context of his criticism. If the thrust of the painting was a sincere religious effort, then of course the Academy would support deriding it. Who cares if the backwards Jesus people get offended? They are an approved target in the crypto-Marxist hellholes our colleges have become.

Gaudeck seems a pretty unremarkable establishment Post Modern artist, appropriating images from Classical artworks and redoing them as crude coloring book illustrations. He also seems to have an affinity for painting Hitler.

Walter Gaudnek: Again with the Hitler

Reading about this strange little controversy reminded me of my college art school experiences, and also filled me with dread. Back in the 1990s I experienced the decaying practices of upper level art education. I can only imagine what the bullying identity politics and virtue signalling of Progressives have turned university art programs into for today’s wishy washy Millennials. From what I have encountered, sophistry has completely devoured the credentialed art world, and inside that bubble, specious double talk stands in for artistic accomplishment.

I saw the evidence this was coming during my student days. In retrospect I can see the pattern. The older professors, trained under the more rigorous standards of an earlier era, tended to talk less, hanging back while we students engaged with our work, and only stepping in with technical pointers and observations as needed. It was some of the younger teachers, the adjuncts and the graduate students, who just wouldn’t shut up.

Instead of focusing on studio experience, the favored practice of this newer generation of instructors was to assign projects as homework, to be brought into the classroom for the grim slog of the never ending critique.

So many of my classes ended up falling into this dynamic. Imagine a group of more-or-less introverted teens and twentysomethings. These are visually oriented as opposed to verbally oriented people: aspiring artists. Because of their youth and lack of training, they are profoundly ignorant of solid intellectual concepts and analytical processes. This is not an insult, merely an acknowledgement of their level of maturity and education. They’ve come to a university to try to improve these deficiencies.

But ultimately it’s a bunch of inexperienced students, who are very engaged and passionate about making things-which happens to be very different than talking fluently about making things. And yet the expectation and the emphasis being placed by the teachers was on words, words, and more words.

These types of classes were very repetitive. Projects were usually not too structured, we were just expected have work to present in class. We’d bring in our pieces, pin them to the wall or set them up on easels, and sit in a ragged semi-circle to contemplate them. Then the speechifying would begin.

The critique model was very different than the group critiques I had taken part in during my beginning art classes. Back then the emphasis had been clear cut discussions of craftsmanship in regards to specific assignments. But now, what little guidance we received from the instructors of the upper level classes aimed our dialogs into the more rarefied atmosphere of Concepts.

Now this might have been productive if we had actually been led in discussions that allowed us to gain understanding of the meanings, methods, and purposes of art. However, the instructors were not much assistance in making this critique method practical. They were usually right there with us novices as far as the quality of their commentary went. Their blather was only distinguished by a larger vocabulary of buzzwords, a greater working knowledge of art history, and an air of dubious authority.

We knew we were supposed to be engaged in a discussion of the successes or failings of the work presented. But what it came down to was a bunch of mostly inarticulate kids trying desperately to sound smart and insightful about art, a subject which is historically infamous for being difficult to put into words. We sure didn’t know how to go about this, so we’d just throw out whatever and hoped it would connect.

It was usually an awkward and halting free for all. The mood was brittle. We’d take turns; everyone got their moment under the microscope. The discussion would go around the room. We were given the chance to make a brief statement about our own work, and then the rest of the class would comment.

We’d try a little of everything in response to the works we were looking at: offer irrelevant suggestions, go off on tangents, tell meandering anecdotes, make inappropriate confessions, hurl accusations, violate the rules of logic and decency in trying to make some obscure point, complain, change the subject, grand stand. At last the teacher would swoop in with some kind of cynical and pontificating final judgment, and we’d move on to the next victim.

This went on week after week, class after class.

Virginia Commonwealth University prided itself on being a school for so-called advanced art. Abstract, non-objective, and conceptual pieces were in. It became obvious it mostly didn’t matter what caliber of art work you showed up with; as long as you adopted the highfalutin jargon of the academic world to discuss it, it was taken seriously.

Just how to make all this this ill-informed opinionating into something usable was beyond me.

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 more feeble 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.

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.

I participated in the tedious discussions, but I was always felt we were missing the point. We were not taught about how genuine art is made, or why. We were trained to substitute opaque discourse and tribal signaling for skillful achievement.

These endless deconstructive debates might not have done our art much good, but it was sure setting us up to take part in the approved modes of the establishment art world. They think if they pile enough words together, they can justify anything. However, they are profoundly wrong. Real art is self evident, and does not need to be propped up with a bunch of meaningless art speak.

 

We don’t need more dull, boring, brainless destruction of convention, what we need is not new, but perennial. We need an art that integrates body and soul and recognizes enduring and underlying principles which have sustained wisdom and insight throughout humanity’s history. This is the proper function of tradition.

-The Remodernism Manifesto

Click here for THE DEATH OF UNIVERSITY ARTS PROGRAMS PART 1: ERIC FISCHL

Click here for THE DEATH OF UNIVERSITY ARTS PROGRAMS PART 2: THE CORCORAN COLLAPSE

 

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

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

ARTICLE-Outcasts: Post Elitist Art

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Past the Point of No Return: Elitist Art is Dead. What Comes Next?

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In my compulsive reading of the ongoing analysis regarding post election consequences and hysteria, I came across this insightful article (clink on the link to read the whole thing):

TRUMP AND THE RAGE OF THE BRAHMANDARINS, by New Class Traitor

The piece makes an interesting comparison between the power struggles of various factions of American society and the Indian Caste system. I see a similar dynamic at play in the art world, which will result in a whole new field of consequences and hysteria to explore.

India makes for an intriguing parallel for the United States after our decades of divisive establishment politicking. A melting pot no more, we’ve been encouraged to divide ourselves into competing niche interest groups, sorted out by race, class, region, religion, and genders actual and imaginary. In this, we now share much in common with the Indian subcontinent, which packs multitudes of distinct ethnic groups, belief systems, and languages into one technically unified country.

In response to the chaos inherent in so many striving factions, over time India developed a controlling system of social stratification and segregation, the caste system. It is a hierarchy where everyone was assigned their role from birth.

The article from New Class Traitor provides these definitions of the four major caste groupings (called varnas, “colors”) and a notable subset:

From top to bottom, the varnas are:

1.  Brahmins (scholars)

2.  Kshatryas (warriors, rulers, administrators)

3.  Vaishyas (merchants, artisans, and farmers)

4.  Shudras (laborers)

5.  Finally, the Dalit (downtrodden, outcasts — the term “pariah” is considered so offensive it has become “the p-word”) are traditionally considered beneath the varna system altogether, as are other “Scheduled Castes” (a legal term in present-day India, referring to eligibility for affirmative action).

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A schematic of India’s Caste System

Don’t read the “Brahmin” here as actual religious figures. In our context it means our new self-aggrandizing aristocracy of the well-connected: the globalists and their various functionaries, lackeys, and minions.

His article goes on to describe connections between this model and the current American experience:

American society used to be a byword for social mobility (“the American dream”) — but a stratification has set in, and it takes little imagination to identify strata of Dalit, Shudras, and Vaishyas in modern American society. The numerically small subculture of military families could be identified as America’s Kshatryas. So where are the Brahmins? (No, I’m not referring to the old money Boston elite.) And why am I using the portmanteau “Brahmandarins” for our New Class?

In India one was, of course, born into the Brahmin varna, and they actually delegated the messy business of governance to the varna below them. In China’s Middle Kingdom, on the other hand, not only was the scholarly Mandarin caste actually the backbone of governance, but in principle anyone who passed the civil service exams could become a Mandarin.

Originally, these exams were meant to foster a meritocracy. Predictably, over time, they evolved to select for conformity over ability, being more concerned with literary style and knowledge of the classics than with any relevant technical expertise.

Hmm, sounds familiar? Consider America’s “New Class”: academia, journalism, “helping” professions, nonprofits, community organizers, trustafarian artists,… Talent for something immediately verifiable (be it playing the piano, designing an airplane, or buying-and-selling,… ) or a track record of tangible achievements are much less important than credentials — degrees from the right places, praise from the right press organs…[emphasis mine]

The New Class should be more like the Mandarins rather than the Brahmins, as in theory (and to some degree in practice) 1st-generation membership is open to people of all backgrounds…

In practice, however, this class is highly endogamous, and its children have an inside track on similar career paths. (Charles Murray’s “Coming Apart” made this case to a fare-thee-well.) Thus one finds 2nd and 3rd generation New Class members, whose outlooks on life tend to be much more insular and collectively self-centered than that of their 1st-generation peers. (It is important not to over-generalize about one’s fellow human beings: some of the fiercest fellow ‘renegades’ I know were to the manor born.) In that respect then, the New Class does resemble the Brahmins. Hence my portmanteau “Brahmandarins”.

He concludes with our last election acting as a kind of coup against the entitled “Brahmandarin” class which has dominated the establishment for decades now:

Fast-forward to the present. In the last several Presidential elections, Brahmandarin D candidates (Obama, Hillary) were pitted against Kshatriyas (McCain) or Vaishyas (Romney, Trump). Unsurprisingly, Brahmandarin presidents tend to appoint cabinet and senior aides from among the Brahmandarin caste, while Trump’s appointments came almost exclusively from the Vaishyas (Exxon CEO Tillerson for State, various other execs), and Kshatriyas (Mattis, Flynn, Kelly). It doesn’t matter that most of these people have real-world achievements to their names than a Robbie Mook type can only dream of: they are “ignorant” (read: insufficiently subservient to New Class shibboleths), “hate-filled”, etc. — All short-hand for “not one of us”.

For those same people who keep on prating about how open they are to foreign cultures (the more foreign, the better to “virtue-signal”) are completely unable to fathom the mindset of their compatriots of a different caste: they might as well come from a different planet as from a different country.

In the last election, with the smug “basket of deplorables” wisecrack, the anointed figurehead of the priestly/scholarly clique let the mask slip, and revealed the very unAmerican conceit that those who dared disagree with the establishment agenda were irredeemable Outcastes. The voters returned their verdict on that attitude.

“It isn’t so much that liberals are ignorant. It’s just that they know so many things that aren’t so.”

-Ronald Reagan

Judging from the terrible real world results of their chronic mismanagement, our governing, self-anointed “smartest people in the room” have turned out to not be smart at all. Their system of “meritocracy”  has been exposed as a racket, serving up only cronyism and a lack of accountability.

If these people had been truly educated, they would have learned from the ancient Greeks that hubris leads to nemesis. However, it’s hard to conceive of a greater collection of ignorance and nonsense than what passes for the coursework of contemporary academia, and so all the supposed best, brightest and most powerful were incapable of adapting to a changing world.

The assumption is the art world is about to rally, and put a stop this shocking turn of events. “What Does It Mean To Be An Artist In the Time Of Trump?” huffs the Huffington Post. Based on the interviews within, nothing new. These insider artists intend to offer the same old cryptoMarxist litany that has kept our contemporary cultural institutions unpleasant and irrelevant for at least 50 years. The luvvies of the establishment art markets declare they will bring you their rage. They will keep having futile tantrums launched from unstable platforms of identity politics, make lots of threats to keep subverting and questioning and denouncing, and use even more tactical buzzwords describing their various chew toy -Isms.

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Fight the Power!

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What these artists don’t see is they are defending the shabby shadows from a dead dinosaur of a political philosophy, one that has caused a century of suffering and oppression. They’ve been so well indoctrinated they don’t even realize how ineffectual they are. I won’t dignify their cheap efforts at propaganda and third rate activism with the meaningful status of art.

All art intuitively apprehends coming changes in the collective unconsciousness.

-Carl Jung

War was already declared on the excesses of establishment art, at the turn of the current century. And not only the ideological, virtue signalling style of art, but also the self-absorbed, alienating products of the Ivory Tower approach, status symbol art made to cater to the expectations of elitist curators, trophy hunting collectors, and other art snobs.

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Miro, Miro on the wall…

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In 1999, before there were recognizable populist movements aimed at stripping authority away from the incompetent and arrogant ruling political classes, there was a revolution in art. In England, a grassroots group of painters who called themselves the Stuckists launched attacks on the powerful but corrupted arts institutions of the UK. They blew apart the facade that the art world did anything but serve the agenda of the establishment. “Brit Art, in being sponsored by Saachis, main stream conservatism and the Labour government, makes a mockery of its claim to be subversive or avant-garde,” their manifesto accurately observed.

In their later masterful overview of the coming changes in collective unconsciousness, The Remodernism Manifesto, co-founders Billy Childish and Charles Thomson stated: “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.”

You can take the words “as art” out of that statement, and it summaries the abuses and failures that are coming to a head now in our culture now quite succinctly. With its distrust of received authority and emphasis on spirituality and personal responsibility, Remodernism was a harbinger of greater movements taking form across the globe.

Just like the “Brahmandarins,” the know-nothing educated classes who fancied themselves privileged and entitled, are being toppled from their positions of power in administration, so they will be cast out of their gatekeeper status in the arts. Their particular brand of “scholarly” art has had a hundred years to gain traction in our civilization, but has failed to do so. Without their endless partisan support, this stuff will vanish quickly, only notable as artifacts of a bygone era.

Who is on the wrong side of history now?

Cutting away the presumptions of the existing arts establishment is liberating. The possibilities are limitless. We are the latest iteration of the American character: optimistic, ordinary people working as explorers and inventors, self-reliant and productive. We make a complex art for complex times.

Welcome to Remodern America.

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Richard Bledsoe “Side Saddle” acrylic on canvas 24″ x 30″

 

 

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

EXPLOITS: A Very Rare Painting Reboot

 

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Richard Bledsoe “The Ghost of Slumber Mountain” oil on canvas 30″ x 24″

The second version

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I have so many ideas for paintings, it is very rare that I would ever paint the same image more than once. In fact, there is only one occasion I can remember doing it. I was reminded of the circumstances recently while we were working on some home renovations, and I had to move 16 years worth of art.

I”ve written before of a troubled time in my artistic explorations, when for several years I made bad, unresolved paintings on wood panels. While most of these unsatisfactory works are exiled to my garage, while doing our rearrangements I found one stored in the house. It happens to be the only painting I ever explicitly repainted.

I am haunted by a story from the early days of film. In 1918 the stop motion animation pioneer Willis O’Brien made a movie called “The Ghost of Slumber Mountain.” Originally 40 minutes long, the distributors of the day cut the movie down to 19 minutes highlighting the dinosaur action O’Brien created.

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Innovator: Willis H. O’Brien at work

The plot that remains features a supernatural visit to a hillbilly cabin and a time traveling telescope. It’s unclear exactly what got cut out. That version still survives, but the rest of the film is lost. Commercial pressures destroyed a rare representation of the birth of a new art form.

The title alone evoked a vision for me, and some time  during the years 2004-2005 I tackled the painting, during the ebb of my artistic efforts. I wasn’t happy with the outcome.

But what I wanted that painting to be stayed with me, to the extent many years later, probably around 2008, I painted the image again. I was back in my artistic groove by then. The second version, depicted above, captures the eeriness I was after all along.

But what about the first version, which I did display in one art show before it was put safely out of sight?

Here it is, in all its dubious glory:

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Richard Bledsoe “The Ghost of Slumber Mountain” oil on wood panel 36″ x 30″

Version One circa 2004-2005

Ugh. I can only put this out there because it is so securely in the past. I have to say, out of all my bad paintings from the time, this is one of the better ones. Even now, I like the body of the creature quite a bit, and the rocks and trees of the skyline. But overall, a swing and a miss.

Seeing this made me feel maybe I should revisit some of the other works I failed to execute the first time round. There are still visions there that deserve to be manifested.

“It is the Stuckist’s duty to explore his/her neurosis and innocence through the making of paintings and displaying them in public, thereby enriching society by giving shared form to individual experience and an individual form to shared experience.”

-The Stuckists Manifesto

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Everyone’s a critic

Our cat Motorhead passes it by without a glance

COMMENTARY: The -isms of Modern Art

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Alfred Barr, Jr.

Director of New York City’s Museum of Modern Art 1929-1943

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Lots of people say they don’t appreciate Modern Art. The term is used as a kind of generic catchall description, often a term of derision for the hokum perpetrated by the out of touch creative class of visual artists.

Technically though, when people refer to Modern Art, they are talking about something that is already in the past.

Modern Art was the future that ended.

For centuries in the western world, art followed predictable formulas, and only changed slowly. Artists focused on creating variations of Classical art, inspired by the masterpieces of ancient Greece, Rome, and the Renaissance.

There was broad consensus on what made for quality art. Order, beauty, and flawless adherence to approved techniques were desirable traits. Support for artworks came from powerful institutional patrons: the church, the state, and the aristocracy. These factions had much to gain from promoting stability and the status quo.

Sometimes an isolated eccentric would create art of a different kind, and challenge expectations. The artistic and cultural establishment of the times reacted harshly to such experimentation. William Blake was called mad, and worked in near total obscurity on his visionary books. J.M.W. Turner faced criticism and ridicule as his landscapes became more atmospheric and abstract. Francisco Goya kept his powerful and morbid black paintings hidden away from his employers at the royal court.

Despite these occasional flare ups from forward thinking radicals, for centuries the art world was a model of social control. Creatives were dominated by the elite. Training and opportunities for artists were under monopolistic control. It’s not that different in today’s commercialized fine art market. Advancement requires conformity to the self-aggrandizement and conceits of the ruling class.

But by the middle of the 1800s, the traditional dynamics changed. Life started moving faster than the establishment could react. The long standing pattern of gradual cultural evolution done in the service of the powerful underwent massive disruptions.

The Modern Age was upon us.

There’s no clear cut definition of the time the Modern Era covered. I define the era of Modern Art as running almost 100 years, bracketed by two art shows: the Salon des Refusés in Paris 1863, to the first major Pop Art show held in New York in 1962. The roots run deeper, and the influence lingers longer, but this is a useful measure for when Modern ideas were the most important in the culture.

Before the Modern age, the conventional understanding was art should present beauty, which represents truth. In modern art, beauty was no longer the highest aspiration, because it symbolized a kind of order and redemptive quality intellectuals had lost faith in.

Modern age rationalism and materialism compels that everything needs to be dissected and analyzed. Artists brought this mentality into art, and manifested this questioning both thematically and visually.

As the Modern age unfolded, the ideas imposed by social changes seemed to demand artists abandon art’s enduring function as a tool for bringing harmony and unity into the lives of humanity. A sense of doubt became a standard starting point.

No longer did art look to provide the comforting experience of the beautiful.  Modern art featured probing and often critical ideas about the nature of art, perception, humanity, and the values we so often fail to live up to. Pessimism was a safe attitude, depicted with ugliness.

Modern art took on an unstable aspect as artists looked to find something to effectively replace the sense of meaning and purpose that had informed the art of the past. The creative class tried to define possible alternatives, angling for personal advantage and prestige. Theories abounded.

Modernism fragmented into competing movements, schools, and influences. With all the possibilities swirling around, artists were not sure what or who to believe in. In rapid succession, the art world moved through major phases: Impressionism, Post Impressionism, Symbolism, Fauvism, Expressionism, Abstraction, Cubism, Futurism, Suprematism, Constructivism,. De Stijl, Dada, Surrealism, and Abstract Expressionism. Artists built entire careers based on the nuances of these experiments.

Modern art can be observed as a series of trends proposed as solutions to the void introduced into heart of art-and by extension, life itself. Nothing seemed to work for long.

This lead to a terrible burnout, and what we have now: the sophistry, shallowness and will to power of the Post Modern age. But even this horror is coming to an end. We are at the beginning of a new era. Welcome to the Remodern Age. We integrate the fragmentation of the Moderns back into a holistic approach, art as a tool for communion and connection once again.

ARTICLE: The Death of University Arts Programs, Part 1: Eric Fischl

These days, prestigious artist Eric Fischl paints what he knows

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ARTICLE LINK: Artist Eric Fischl on art education priorities

The current status quo of the art world is dysfunctional and unsustainable. Aspiring artists are indoctrinated into the belief that path for advancement lies through the minefield of dogma higher education has been reduced to.

The reality of the situation is that the assumptions and biases of the elitist academic approach probably did more to create and sustain the crisis of relevance the arts are undergoing than any other factor.

The end of the current system is inevitable. What will take its place will be determined by those who can see past the dreary conformity that inflicts the credentialed creative classes.

Eric Fischl got his schooling during the hippie-dippie days of the deconstructive 1960s. As he puts it, “There were no classes that taught techniques, no classes focusing on the business of art, no financial counselors.”

However, he managed to overcome the obstacles of such experimental academic shenanigans to become one of the most noteworthy and successful artists of the 1980s New York art scene.

Coming up in an age dominated by abstraction and minimalism, Fischl managed to rediscover the power of human drama inherent in figurative painting. He specializes in the dark, seamy and sexual, but hey: there’s lots of drama to explore in those recesses of mankind’s frailty. His artistry punches through the tawdriness; he makes epics out of fallen humanity’s misadventures. He’s a very bold and generous artist.

Now Fischl has commented on the newest forms of higher education trendiness, and he sees the path of destruction they are on.

“…do you acknowledge that the nature of art making has changed, the pressures and expectations on young artists are different, so you adjust your methodology to address their reality?

“No, no, no, no, no, NO!

“Art education should not be a degree program. It should be dropped from colleges and universities—or at the very least, the tuition should be scaled in such a way that students are not burdened with debt in a field that cannot in any way guarantee an income commensurate with the ability to pay it down.

“It should provide a student with space, time, techniques, and critical standards, in a safe and competitive environment, so that they can handle and profit from being constantly challenged, broken down, debased, and ridiculed. Make damn sure that within this structure of frustration, confusion, and humiliation, they are nurtured by your profound sense of purpose, wisdom, experience, and your unshakeable belief in the meaningfulness of art.

“Art should be embraced as a journey. Result-oriented, not product-based. Understood as a process and a dialogue with history, culture, and time.

“For what it’s worth.”

-Eric Fischl

Just imagine the if the cry bullies of today’s college campuses ever found themselves in a challenging and competitive environment. The hysterical stampede for their safe spaces would be highly unsafe. Cue the helicopter parents, the SJWs, and the partisan hack media to launch their rituals of shaming and outrage.

It seems these days University art programs are more geared to training future cogs for the elitist sycophant combine than to teaching students the craft to express a personal vision. There’s already a legion of dolts out there that can’t tell the difference between a marketing scheme and a work of art; every year more graduate into a world that shrugged off contemporary visual art as useless long ago. The priorities  learned in these cloistered environments will work only in other cloistered environments. The goal is keep the art world small, isolated, and easily controlled.

This toxic combination of an extremely narrow niche field of endeavor, unethical professional cronyism,  hair trigger emotional status seeking, and rigid ideological conformity is just the way the arts establishment wants it. It plays into their status as power brokers. But it’s really no good for anyone else.

It’s entertaining in a way to watch the ivory tower crumble. Once we get the rubble of fallen reputations and squandered credibility cleared away, humanity can re-engage with the true purpose of art: the skillful communication of spiritual states and realizations that unite, not divide.

“Remodernism is inclusive rather than exclusive and welcomes artists who endeavour to know themselves and find themselves through art processes that strive to connect and include, rather than alienate and exclude.”

-The Remodernism Manifesto

Update: Welcome Instapundit readers! Please see other articles here for more commentary on the state of the arts.

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