ARTISTS: Remembering Steve Gompf

Steve Gompf April 27, 1963 – March 4, 2018 

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Televisors

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

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

Reanimated video stills 

 

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

 

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

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

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

An hypnotic televisor at Deus Ex Machina 

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

Michele and Steve: Pure Imagination 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Michele Bledsoe “Portrait of Steve Gompf” acrylic on canvas 

 

A Celebration of Life for Steve Gompf

Sunday May 20, 2018 7 pm

Alwun House

1204 East Roosevelt Street

Phoenix, Arizona 85006

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ARTICLE: Activist Art Exposed as an Elitist Bait and Switch

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

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

― Socrates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Forensic Architecture: missed their stop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ARTISTS: Arthur Benjamins

 

Arthur Benjamins “Swede” 40″ x 48″ 

 

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

-Arthur Benjamins 

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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: How Obama’s Portrait Reveals the Failures of the Elitist Art World

In the Weeds: Kehinde Wiley’s Obama Portrait 

.As the United States clips along at the speed of Trump, the news cycle races by in a dizzying blur. Events rapidly recede without any time for real analysis. Such was the case for the big reveal of the official portraits of former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. Although it just happened on February 12, it already feels like ancient history. Yet this regrettable image is going to be cluttering up the National Portrait Gallery forever, so it’s worth understanding just what the tax payers had to subsidize.

The Michelle Obama portrait is just sad. A tentative, pallid non-likeness. The apparatchiks at the museum assure us that it is so popular it had to be moved to a larger display space. Perhaps a pilgrimage to it gives the same solace that some progressives get from the plastic Obama dolls they keep stashed in their purses. The artist who made this painting just seems to have attempted a task above their pay grade, and fell short. It happens.

It is the portrait of Barack that displays the corruption of the establishment. It’s a Postmodern mockery. As such it may be a fitting representation for Obama, but that doesn’t make it good art.

What makes this piece so awful? Let us count the ways.

Con Artist 

Kehinde Wiley

American artist Andy Warhol set the tone back in the 1960s by reducing his contribution to his own “art” to being a celebrity spokesmodel for a brand of products he did not produce himself. That inane example has become the ideal for the untalented Postmodern artists, like Kehinde Wiley.

Even when he made his pieces himself, Wiley did a form of artistic cheating, using a prevalent practice which undermines the integrity of the act. He took photographs and used a projector to trace them onto the canvas. Artists who use this shortcut undercut themselves and their audience by doing a paint-by-numbers routine to create their works. These artists have reduced themselves to a mere cog in a mechanical reproduction process, not creating, but taking dictation from their gadgets. They let their tools make their discoveries for them. It is an inferior mode of creation. Perhaps it explains some of the compositional errors in the piece, like the 6 fingers on the left hand, or the really awkward perspective on the chair. The projector must have gotten bumped.

As exposed by the Gateway Pundit, the Obama portrait even fell back on copy/paste for the backdrop; the same image was tiled repeatedly.

The lack of engagement comes through in the pieces. as the New York Times noted back in 2008, “…the Conceptual rationale behind Mr. Wiley’s paintings has tended to overpower their visual presence, which helps reduce them to illustrations. Like Norman Rockwell’s paintings they look better in reproduction than in reality.”

But Wiley can’t even be bothered to put in that much effort anymore.

.Outsourced to Forced Labor 

Beijing Studio: Dabbed more paint onto his clothes than the actual canvases 

.Wiley doesn’t even make his own paintings. Does he set up workshops in distressed American inner cities, where he could cultivate apprentices drawn from the disadvantaged youths he claims to honor?  No. He has a studio in worker’s paradise Beijing, China, along with other locations described as “global.” There he can pay cut rate salaries for assembly line production.

Wiley employs various strategies to defuse criticism about the practice. Sometimes he tries to get folksy:

“There’s nothing new about artists using assistants—everyone from Michelangelo to Jeff Koons has employed teams of helpers, with varying degrees of irony and pride—but Wiley gets uncomfortable discussing the subject. ‘I’m sensitive to it,’ he says. When I first arrived at his Beijing studio, the assistants had left, and he made me delete the iPhone snapshots I’d taken of the empty space. It’s not that he wants people to believe every brushstroke is his, he says. That they aren’t is public ­knowledge. It’s just a question of boundaries. “I don’t want you to know every aspect of where my hand starts and ends, or how many layers go underneath the skin, or how I got that glow to happen,’ he says. ‘It’s the secret sauce! Get out of my kitchen!’”

Sometimes he wants to brush it off with the jaded airs of an insider:

“‘The sentiments about authenticity in the public eye,’ Wiley tells me, with conversational casualness and an air of mild fatigue over having, once again, to explain this, ‘the discomfort with a large-scale art practice, comes from a myth in an artistic process that never existed. Rubens, Michelangelo: Both had large studios with many assistants. There is a long line of artists who work with other artists to realize a larger vision than is possible with one hand. Education in art history taught me this, as did being steeped in the reality of painting. My interest is in completing an image that is spectacular beyond belief. My fidelity is to the image and the art and not to the bragging rights of making every stroke on every flower. I’m realistic. It’s not romantic, but that romance never existed.'”

Conveniently left out of his analogy are all the artists who did indeed actually make their own art. Postmodern operators like to refer to workshops of the Old Masters as a precedent. It takes a lot of arrogance to claim any similarities between the incredible discipline and vision of renowned artists who have endured the test of time, and the second-rate novelties churned out now on behalf of stilted hacks. These days, all a Postmodern spokesmodel really needs to do is push the appropriate politically correct buttons.

.Vicious Virtue signalling

Classical 

Before the Presidential portrait, one of the things Wiley was known for were variations on an image from apocryphal Book of Judith. In that story a woman saves Israel by seducing and assassinating an invading king; it was the subject of many Renaissance artworks. Wiley (or his helpers) depicted this scene as a black woman holding the decapitated head of a white woman. “It’s sort of a play on the ‘kill whitey’ thing,” Wiley explained. How playful! The privileged insider art world sure is getting played, falling all over themselves to show how woke they are for racial violence.

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Wiley gets additional virtue status points as a gay man. You might think there was no connection between which set of genitals an artist enjoys and the quality of their work, but the establishment art world knows better than you. Wiley makes leering references to his preferences in his works. The persistent rumors about his casting couch demands on his models aren’t relevant here. But Wiley does provide other hints.

When the Obama portrait was unveiled many made an observation that was dismissed as a conspiracy theory: that Barack had a big old sperm on his forehead.

Photo Credit: Vigilant Citizen 

The media denials were intense. “Wackadoodle,” said the Washington City Paper. “False,” and somehow racist, claimed Snopes. A picture circulated which claimed to prove it’s just an accurate rendering, but which doesn’t seem to support that point at all. The head of the alleged sperm is nowhere to be seen in the photo, and that’s what makes all the difference. But who are you going to believe, the media or your lying eyes?

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It becomes even more evident when research shows sperm is a Wiley painting trademark. It’s sort of like a Hitchcock cameo, but with semen. Back when the Village Voice didn’t have to disavow the allusion, they positively gloated over it:

“Wiley has painted free-floating spermatozoa across the canvas. The same goes for the bear of a fellow in Napoleon Leading the Army Over the Alps, which could be subtitled “(Through a Light Ejaculate Mist).’ And if the painted tadpoles aren’t sufficiently suggestive, several of the gilded frames contain sperm reliefs of their own. (Talk about painting outside the lines.)”

 

Wiley: Napoleon is coming over the Alps 

Who is the wackadoodle now?

Establishmentile Dysfunction

There’s more that could be said about this debacle, but enough is enough for now. In my upcoming book, Remodern America: How the Renewal of the Arts Will Change the Course of Western  Civilization, remedies are presented for the failures of elitist culture. As stated in the Remodern America Manifesto:

“Art is a more enduring and vital human experience than the power games of a greedy and fraudulent ruling class. The managers crashed the culture in pursuit of their agenda. They defend their usurped authority and privileges with doublethink, misdirection, and intimidation. Their time has run out. Reality is crashing back through their carefully constructed facades, and a time of reckoning has come. Enduring changes start in the arts. Remodernism defeats Postmodern desecration.”

 

 

 

 

 

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. 

love

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 3

The Collaborative Painting Continues: Drawing it Out 

Once we started defining the composition, the painting moved rapidly. It is a small piece, 12″ x 6″, which happens to be one of Michele’s favorite sizes. Basically we were both arranging our own 6″ x 6″ squares, and making them harmonize. I tend to do my drawing filling in spaces with paint. Michele lays out the elements in line drawings. She learned to not start painting until her drawing is complete.

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  Here we’ve made a great leap forward, once Michele started laying in color, and I started to get detailed.

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Next up: completion.

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Read the series

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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 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