PAINTINGS: The Evolution of “Hollowsaurus”

 

Richard Bledsoe “Hollowsaurus” acrylic on canvas 24″ x 36″ 

On September 1, 2018, I finished Hollowsaurus, an epic painting 6 months in the making. It was an ambitious expansion of an image I first played with on a small canvas:

 

Richard Bledsoe “Table for Two” acrylic on canvas 12″ x 16″ 

 

I was so intrigued by this vision I was presented with that it inspired a whole series of images in my mind.  These pieces are the beginning of a new body of work for me. I have already started the next one. I feel the powerful symbolism flowing through these pictures. They speak to me without being reduced to mere words.

While I was making Hollowsaurus, I took pictures of its development. I think these photos give insight on how I build a painting, and how the works evolve.

Barely Begun 

 

 

Defining the elements 

 

 

Building Details 

“Spiritual art is not about fairyland. It is about taking hold of the rough texture of life. It is about addressing the shadow and making friends with wild dogs. Spirituality is the awareness that everything in life is for a higher purpose.”

-The Remodernism Manifesto 

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STUDIO: “Night’s Forces” Emerges from the Room of Shame

Richard Bledsoe “Night’s Forces” acrylic on canvas 30″ x 30″ 

Let me tell you about the room of shame.

The room of shame is the place where unfinished paintings are stacked, faces to the wall. It must have close to a dozen residents right now, some as large as 30″ x 36″. Some have been in there for many years.

These are paintings which I began, and then at some point in their development, I lost the plot, and the point, and my ability to finish them. This happens sometimes when working intuitively. The inspiration dries up before the work is complete.

I always have multiple works going. For example, right now, I have 4 unfinished paintings pending, 2 of which are practically done. So it’s no great blow to my productivity if I have to put something aside temporarily, or not so temporarily.

Some incomplete works are unsalvageable. I will paint over them, and create a whole new image.

But the paintings in the room of shame are worth completing. I still believe in them, and am waiting for their moment to return. They say the way you do something is the way you do everything. I may be slow, but I am persistent.

Case in point: Night’s Forces.

I began this painting in 2015. It was far advanced when I had to put it away. I’d had a series of studio sessions on it where instead of improving it, I was making it less effective, less resolved. It was a complex composition. I couldn’t get the colors and definitions to function. Off it went to the room of shame, where it lingered for years. Until a few weeks ago, when I brought it out again. I made some big moves on it, because at that point I had nothing to lose. The work would either crash, or crash through. Fortunately, it was the latter.

Night’s Forces is now finished, and I’m ready to move on with additional new projects. My wife Michele Bledsoe created a video of me working on it as it entered it final phases. See the video here:

Video-Remodern America: Renew the Arts and Renew the Civilization

As I state in my upcoming book, Remodern America: How the Renewal of the Arts will change the Course of western Civilization:

“Remodernism reboots the culture. Remodernism is not a style of art, it is a form of motivation.”

Sometimes a painting needs a time out followed by an assertive jump start. This return is driven by Remodernist motivation: I need to show you what I saw, so we will better understand each other, and life as a whole.

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

Richard Bledsoe and Michele Bledsoe

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

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“We were led away from the others and sat under the shade of trees in the cemetery. As he arranged himself, sitting rather irreverently on a crypt, it gave me a chance to consider the hardships he must have suffered to reach such a condition. He was exceedingly tall but thin to the point of gauntness. His coloration could be described like that of an albino’s but instead of a pinkish tone, his pallor displayed a greenish tinge, with mottlings of purple. His unseeing eyes were squeezed shut, bulging behind lids that almost seemed to be sealed over. Unmindful of facial expressions, as the blind often are, he seemed to have a terrible snarl always about his lips, exposing his gums and a surprisingly strong looking set of teeth.

“Once he started to play his talent was evident, but it was not to my liking at all. The sounds he produced on his guitar I can hardly credit as music; his voice fluctuated between an eerie falsetto warble and an impossibly low croaking or gasping sound. Many of lines were delivered in some harsh language or dialect completely unknown to me. Those words which he sang that I could discern have shaken me to my very core.”

From the short story “Blind Mugwump Johnson and the Cooloo Blues” 

August 20th is the birthday of horror author H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937). I have been a fan of his writings since I was a teenager. It’s amused me to watch his influence spread over the years, becoming mainstream commercial to the extent you could go on a Cthuhlu-themed shopping spree, if you wanted to.

Lovecraft invented an underlying myth for a series of short stories he produced during the early decades of the twentieth century. In his nightmare world, prehistoric Earth had been colonized by monstrous demonic aliens. These evil beings were still here, slumbering under oceans and desolate wastelands, waiting for their time to rise again. Encounters with these creatures or their human accomplices led to madness, death and destruction.

Many other authors have built on the haunted universe Lovecraft suggested. Here in Phoenix, H.P Lovecraft’s Birthday was a performance art event for many years, held at various venues. I took part in these shows, doing readings of a series of short stories I wrote, my contributions to the Lovecraftian Mythos.

These stories are collected in an ebook available on Amazon. The Cthulhu Blues and Other Stories.

My wife and I made a book trailer for it, which had us shrieking – with laughter.

The painting currently on the cover is a Lovecraft inspired painting I made in 2001; “Tendrils of the Dreamer.” However, when Michele Bledsoe and I first conceived the book, I decided I was going to create a new painting for the cover design.

I was going to produce a portrait of the character Blind Mugwump Johnson, the mysterious and sinister Delta blues singer. I started right away. However, as Michele assembled the e-book, I couldn’t get the painting right. It happens sometimes. Here is an earlier version, long before I quit working on it:

 

I covered this base coat with purples and unbleached titanium and then piled on more green, and redrew the mouth. It just wasn’t happening. Rather than delay the book, we went with another image, and the work in progress hung on the wall of our studio for months, unfinished.

Recently Michele and I started collaborating on paintings. After we finished our first one, she had another idea of how we could share a work. She asked if she could put her hand to finishing “Blind Mugwump Johnson.” She didn’t want to change it, just tweak it a little. I loved the idea.

She brought it to a wonderful resolution. With a light touch, she brought substance and subtlety to the image, and made it complete.

My next book is going to be “Remodern America: How the Renewal of the Arts Will Change the Course of Western Civilization.”  We are in the final editing stages now, we want it out this summer if possible.

But once that’s all complete, I look forward to returning to the shadowy depths spawned by Lovecraft, and discovering some more stories to tell about them.

 

 

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

Michele Bledsoe and Richard Bledsoe “Tusk”

acrylic on canvas, 12″ x 6″ 

 

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

The Remodern America Manifesto 

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

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

Michele compared it to having a conversation.

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

 

Read the series:

STUDIO: Collaborative Painting with Richard and Michele-Part 1

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STUDIO: Collaborative Painting with Richard and Michele-Part 2

 

STUDIO: Collaborative Painting with Richard and Michele-Part 3

 

ARTICLE: The Death of University Arts Programs, Part 5: Why Columbia Art Students Demanded Tuition Refunds

Money Well Spent?

From Columbia Alumnus Julia Phillip’s Exhibit Failure Detection

I’m Detecting Some Failure, All Right 

 

An important dispatch from Columbia University, the most expensive college in the United States:

COLUMBIA SPECTATOR: With decrepit facilities and missing faculty, MFA Visual Arts students demand tuition refund

“On April 5, the students in the program met with Provost John Coatsworth and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences David Madigan to discuss their concerns with the program and demand a full tuition refund from the University. Although Coatsworth acknowledged that the state of the program is a ‘disgrace,’ he told the students that Columbia would not be able to provide them with a tuition refund.”

Never mind the fact New York City has some of the highest costs of living in the world. What’s the annual pricetag for Columbia MFA students? Merely  $63,961 for the 2017–18 school year. The university had an endowment of over $10 billion dollars in 2017. Yet none of those funds seem to be directed towards basics like building maintenance or adequate staff. I wonder if their Office of Academic Diversity faces similar challenges.

As an artist myself, I view the complaints about their facilities with skepticism. I lived for two years in a warehouse space in Arizona with no air conditioning or heat. Back when I didn’t have a studio, I used to paint in my kitchen. I had to drag all the furniture around to make space, and be mindful that I didn’t set my cans of paint thinner too near the pilot lights on the gas stove. No one would have known the primitive conditions I had to work in by looking at my finished pieces. An artist must take control of their presentation, and not make excuses about the difficulties involved in production.

But reading this article about some offended privileged kids, there is another quote which reveals what really irks them:

“[The faculty] have gone above and beyond what their role is as a faculty member. They’re in the same boat as us, they’re trying to do the best they can with the restrictions that have been placed from the institution,” Travis Fairclough, a Columbia MFA student expected to graduate in 2019, told the Spectator. “[But] half of the faculty that are listed on the website is actually here, which is a huge blow, because the program is largely based on the connections that you have with your faculty members.” (emphasis mine)

A work by unhappy student Travis Fairclough. 

Connections with faculty members. Really, how much could a professor do for someone who produces paintings like this in an advanced degree program? But artistic achievement isn’t the real concern. In the Postmodern world, it’s not what you do, it’s who you know.

What the students are really protesting is the fact the school isn’t delivering enough chances to suck up to powerful folks who can act as gateways into the corrupt establishment art world.

In my upcoming book, Remodern America: How the Renewal of the Arts Will Change the Course of Western Civilization, I discuss at length the tainted practices of elitist power games:

An additional tool of Postmodern phoniness is brown-nosing.  When quality and accomplishment are no longer factors, life is reduced to a scramble to be noticed and elevated by the powerful. It’s a matter of who can most offend the disdained outsiders, make the most noise, and kiss the most rings, or asses. Our cultural institutions have degenerated into hierarchies of sycophants; the Postmodern establishment makes it clear that throne-sniffing is mandatory for advancement.

Why would students face massive expenses to study fine art at an Ivy League school? They expect it will pay off for them in the form of nepotism. They expected the chance to play courtiers to some mighty art world players, which would give striving students a shot at joining the ranks of the New Aristocracy of the Well Connected. Without being able to count on favoritism from cronies, Columbia students would have to try to earn an art career based on the merits of their art. Looking at the works above from a couple of Columbia trained artists, it is evident why they desperately need someone to grease the skids on their behalf.

It’s ironic that at least one of the missing professors, Thomas Roma, “retired” due to #metoo concerns. Guess he wanted to connect a little too much. Why are elitist institutions always such cesspits of harassment?

A Photo by the Inappropriate Thomas Roma 

The Columbia MFA students aren’t getting a refund. The administration calls their own program a disgrace, but there’s no money back guarantee. Caveat Emptor. The students feel violated because they thought they could buy their way into prestige. They expected take personal advantage of the Neotribal benefits Postmodernists offer up as the reward for conformity. Instead, their situation can be best summed up by Jon Kessler,one of the Columbia art professors who actually is there:

“’It’s almost criminal to endebt a student $100,000 to be a painter or a performance artist… and if this program was a third of the price, I don’t think we’d have quite the intensity around the tuition reimbursement,’ Kessler said.”

The Art of Jon Kessler, the who calls Columbia’s MFA program “Almost Criminal” 

Earlier entries in the “Death of University Art Programs” series

Part 1: Eric Fischl

Part 2: The Corcoran Collapse 

Part 3: Ignorance as a Method of Critique 

Part 4: The Subsidized Sedition of Establishment Art Schools

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

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

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.

.Sperm

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.”