Repost-Within A Bank Of Modern Fog-Another Link To Robert Hughes On Jeff Koons

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There’s always been a bit of the showman about Jeff Koons; the kind of young man who could put on a bow tie and try to give many museum-goers their time/money/aspirations’ worth at the membership desk.

This blog forgives people trying to explain what their art ‘means,’ exactly, but confesses to pleasure in seeing Koons put on the spot under the suspicious eye of an ornery old Robert Hughes.

I don’t fault Koons for finding himself firmly within modernism, searching for universal forms and broader historical context within those confines, but I admit it’s nice to see him held to account for his bullshit, and perhaps the broader, deeper bullshit he shares with many modern and postmodern artists: Pursuing novelty and recognition and thus making art into a business and often commercializing it, aiming for celebrity while offering meta-critiques on celebrity, making the personal and private very public (masturbation into social commentary, sex into meta-critques of religious shame, ‘culture’ and pornography).

Two quotes by Hughes that stood out:

Religion is diminished into celebrity..a kind of reverse apotheosis.

‘This alienation of the work from the common viewer is actually a form of spiritual vandalism.’

It’s tough to say that art is really about religion (though much clearly is), but rather more about an experience Hughes wants as many people as possible to have, and that such experiences can elevate and expand.

Aside from the above, there’s something that strikes me as not just late 20th century-modern about Koons, but also very American.

As previously posted:

Is street-art, or the use of graffiti & mixed-materials performed illegally out in public (on public and privately owned property) partly due to the success of capital markets?

-Banksy’s website here.

-Newsweek’s piece: ‘See You Banksy, Hello Invader.

Response To A Reader On ‘Radical Chic’ And A Link to Banksy’s ‘Dismaland’

I’d argue that it’s possible, especially with the constant cries of modernism to ‘make it new,‘ I think this is one way we’ve arrived at pop art, and the desire to blend conceptual art and popular music together. This is in evidence from The Talking Heads to Lady Gaga to Jay Z promoting his new album alongside Marina Abramovic at MOMA.

Many modern artists, from Andy Warhol to Jeff Koons to Damien Hirst are people with some artistic talent and native gifts, but not as much in the way of classical and/or formal training. They may be trying to have a conversation with the old masters, but they are clearly also the products of, and speaking to, ‘modern’ audiences. Much of this has become a world of shallow depth, especially among the less talented. Drawing and drafting can be underdeveloped skills while ‘mixed-media’ presentations, celebrity, marketing, money and fame are all thrown into the same pot.

Also On This Site: Roger Scruton says keep politics out of the arts, and political judgment apart from aesthetic judgment…this includes race studies/feminist departments/gay studies etc.: Roger Scruton In The American Spectator Via A & L Daily: Farewell To Judgment

Goya’s Fight With Cudgels and Goya’s Colossus. A very good Goya page here.

Joan Miro: WomanGoethe’s Color Theory: Artists And ThinkersSome Quotes From Kant And A Visual Exercise

A Reaction To Jeff Koons ‘St John The Baptist’

Denis Dutton suggests art could head towards Darwin (and may offer new direction from the troubles of the modern art aimlessness and shallow depth) Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’

Repost-A Quick Post On Brasilia

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Oscar Niemeyer, the man behind Brasilia, passed away some years back.

In the video above, Robert Hughes, sometimes fierce critic of modernism, stirs up controversy and I imagine took some pleasure in criticizing the utopian ideal of a city designed from high above, according to Niemeyer’s rational plan, and peopled by bureaucrats. Sometimes he’s a little over the top.

From a previous commenter on this site:

‘Brasilia is a great city, if you like decentralization and lack of culture! The planner based his entire strategy around the use of the car, disconnecting residential areas from commercial and making no allowance for walkability. He also provided no affordable housing, which forced many workers to set up favelas, or slums, outside the city.

The design of the buildings and landscapes is bare and void of the Brazilian history and culture. It lacks color, vibrancy, and community.

And the best part of all is that they clearcut thousands of acres of tropical forest to implement this chunk of sprawling, white-washed concrete!’

As for me, I find myself favorable to criticism of the political philosophy behind such planning and am worried at how many find it amenable nowadays. Yet, clearly there’s beauty in Brasilia’s design and it’s a feat of engineering to have built it in three years immediately after the fall of a military dictatorship. Some people might not mind living there.

Perhaps there are similarities with Buzludzha, at least with respect to political organizing principles, and what’s emerged from some quarters of Europe since the Enlightenment. Buzludzha’s the abandoned communist monument in Bulgaria’s Balkan mountains, which still draws up to 50,000 Bulgarian Socialists for a yearly pilgrimage. Human Planet’s Timothy Allen visited the structure in the snow and took some haunting photos. You will think you’ve stepped into a Bond film and one of Blofeld’s modernist lairs, but with somewhat Eastern Orthodox tile frescos of Lenin and Marx gazing out at you, abandoned to time, the elements and to nature.

One theme of this blog is how many people throughout the liberal Western world, knowingly and unknowingly, can be quite illiberal and quite comfortable with some very illiberal consequences of those ideas in action.

The Atlantic Monthly has more on Brasilia, see: “A Vision In Concrete

Related On This Site: No thanks to living in planned communities upon someone else’s overall vision.: Roger Scruton In The City Journal: Cities For Living–Is Modernism Dead?Repost-Via Reason: ‘Salvador Allende’s Cybersocialist Command Center’…Cities should be magnets for creativity and culture? –From The Atlantic: Richard Florida On The Decline Of The Blue-Collar ManFrom Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit’… some people don’t want you to have the economic freedom to live in the suburbs: From Foreign Policy: ‘Urban Legends, Why Suburbs, Not Cities, Are The Answer’

A structure in the desert…not even a city Update On LACMA, Michael Heizer And The ‘Levitated Mass’-Modern Art And The Public;..where is modernism headed? Via Youtube: Justin, The Horse That Could Paint

Denis Dutton suggested art could head towards Darwin (and may offer new direction from the troubles of the modern art aimlessness and shallow depth…the money and the fame) Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’

For Commerce Or Contemplation?-Felix Salmon At Reuters: ‘Is This The End Of The Art-Market Bubble?’

Full piece here.

Distinguishing between a bubble, and a speculative bubble, Salmon suggests there are signs that the art market could be a speculative bubble at this point, primarily ‘fueled by flippers:’

Here are his four reasons why:

-‘Firstly, galleries don’t have faith in their own prices.’

-‘Secondly, we might be seeing the smart money rushing to the exits.’

-‘Thirdly…’sellers are suddenly more willing to use the auction houses as a place to sell their works.’

-Finally, the quality of the buyers at auction might be weakening, with art-world types being replaced by — for lack of a better word — rich chumps’

You don’t want to end-up a chump, rich or not.

Ought the art-market be subject to similar regulations and practices as financial markets?  Is there something so inherently subjective and unquantifiable about art that disqualifies developing a code of ethics in art markets?

Below is an Intelligence Squared video in which two sides debate those very same questions in “The Art Market Is Less Ethical Than The Stock Market.

Addressed are ideas which will clarify some of Salmon’s claims (do art galleries ever have faith in their own prices?), but it’s not a specific response to the current state of the art-market.  Salmon may well be correct:

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On a related note: Check out Art Basel in Miami, where modern-art and marketing, artists of various talent, self-promoters, gallery owners and buyers meet.  It strikes this blog as a glitzy flea-market of high and low.

Art Basel is also promoted as civic-boosting and good business for the city of Miami.  No doubt it is, but I suspect the Superbowl and/or guided tours to the Versace mansion can also serve the same purpose.  Good art and truly unique and visionary artists are going to be in tension with these kinds of shows.

Yet it’s a free country, and some of the art can be quite good:

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On yet another related note: Is street-art, or the use of graffiti & mixed-materials performed illegally out in public (on public and privately owned property) partly due to the success of capital markets?

-Banksy’s website here.

-Newsweek’s piece: ‘See You Banksy, Hello Invader.

I’d argue that it’s possible, especially with the constant cries of modernism to ‘make it new,‘  I think this is one way we’ve arrived at pop art, and the desire to blend conceptual art and popular music together.  This is in evidence from The Talking Heads to Lady Gaga to Jay Z promoting his new album alongside Marina Abramovic at MOMA.

Many modern artists, from Andy Warhol to Jeff Koons to Damien Hirst are people with some artistic talent and native gifts, but not as much in the way of classical and/or formal training.  They may be trying to have a conversation with the old masters, but they are clearly also the products of, and speaking to, ‘modern’ audiences.  Much of this has become a world of shallow depth, especially among the less talented. Drawing and drafting can be underdeveloped skills while ‘mixed-media’ presentations, celebrity, marketing, money and fame are all thrown into the same pot.

***The day that Damien Hirst put up his works, selling them for $111 million dollars, the market crashed.

I’d argue that the relative freedom that markets allow, and the shape they give culture along with the pull of democratization can create this type of modern artist in Anglo-American life.

This isn’t advocacy for either a lack of open markets, nor a lack of good art, nor even the lack of certain ideals I find persuasive guiding our constitutional republic with a functioning democracy.  Rather, it’s just an observance that this state of affairs can also invite in ideologies which are hostile to open markets, such as Marxism, which ultimately seeks to subjugate art under its umbrella.

Camille Paglia, child of the 60’s, thinks there’s room for re-thining art-education in American schools, tilting the culture in a direction she’d like to see it go:

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Feel free to highlight my ignorance.  Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

Related On This Site:  Roger Scruton says keep politics out of the arts, and political judgment apart from aesthetic judgment…this includes race studies/feminist departments/gay studies etc.:  Roger Scruton In The American Spectator Via A & L Daily: Farewell To Judgment

Denis Dutton suggests art could head towards Darwin (and may offer new direction from the troubles of the modern art aimlessness and shallow depth) Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’

Goya’s Fight With Cudgels and Goya’s Colossus.  A very good Goya page here.

Joan Miro: Woman… Goethe’s Color Theory: Artists And ThinkersSome Quotes From Kant And A Visual Exercise

A Reaction To Jeff Koons ‘St John The Baptist’

What about the victims of crime, not all this romanticization of criminals?:  Heather MacDonald At The City Journal: ‘Radical Graffiti Chic’.

Here’s Nietzsche scholar J.P. Stern on Nietzsche’s anti-Christian, anti-secular morality (Kant, utilitarians), anti-democratic, and anti-Greek (except the “heroic” Greek) biases…See the comments Repost-Camille Paglia At Arion: Why Break, Blow, Burn Was SuccessfulUpdate And Repost: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’

Institutionalized Leftism in the Arts:  From ReasonTV Via Youtube: ‘Ken Burns on PBS Funding, Being a “Yellow-Dog Democrat,” & Missing Walter Cronkite’Repost-From NPR: Grants To The NEA To Stimulate The Economy?

Repost-Via Reason: ‘Salvador Allende’s Cybersocialist Command Center’

Robert Hughes-R.I.P.

Australian art historian, thinker, and (sometimes savage) critic of modern art.  Video above is the first of his 8 part “Shock Of The New” series, which presents a modern art historian’s sweep of 20th century political and intellectual history and how images, ideas, art, and artists themselves are woven throughout.

Addition: Simon Schama has a piece on Hughes life and work.

Also On This Site:  Denis Dutton suggested art could head towards Darwin (and may offer new direction from the troubles of the modern art aimlessness and shallow depth…the money and the fame) Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’

Denver’s Devil Horse may be flirting with kitsch: From The Wall Street Journal: Denver’s Mustang Or ‘Devil Horse’…and I like his work:…Joan Miro: Woman

From Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit’…Marketplace aesthetics in service of “women”: Dove’s Campaign For Real Beauty: Pascal Dangin And Aesthetics… Roger Scruton In The City Journal: Cities For Living–Is Modernism Dead?Brasilia: A Planned City

What are these people doing with art?:  Often combining them with a Left-of-Center political philosophy as they are at NPR for popular consumption.  On this site, see: From ReasonTV Via Youtube: ‘Ken Burns on PBS Funding, Being a “Yellow-Dog Democrat,” & Missing Walter Cronkite’Repost-From NPR: Grants To The NEA To Stimulate The Economy?

Hughes wrote a review for Time entitled the “Princeling Of Kitsch.”

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Via Reason: ‘Salvador Allende’s Cybersocialist Command Center’

Full piece here.

Click through for the photo.

‘The system, designed by British cybernetician Stafford Beer, was supposed to allow powerful men to make decisions about production, labor, and transport in real time using up-to-the-minute economic information provided directly by workers on the factory floors of dozens of newly nationalized companies’

A shag carpet probably would have been out of place, but I like the white pod chairs (Captain Kirk to the bridge for fuel price re-allocations).

In fact, the network that fed the system was little more than a series of jury-rigged Telex machines with human operators, transmitting only the simplest data, which were slapped onto old-style Kodak slides—again, by humans. The controls on the chairs merely allowed the operator to advance to the next slide’

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In working towards a theme, check out Buzludzha, the abandoned communist monument in Bulgaria’s Balkan mountains, which still draws up to 50,000 Bulgarian Socialists for a yearly pilgrimage.  Human Planet’s Timothy Allen visited the structure in the snow and took some haunting photos.  You will think you’ve stepped into a Bond film and one of Blofeld’s modernist lairs, but with somewhat Eastern Orthodox tile frescos of Lenin and Marx gazing out at you, abandoned to time, the elements and to nature.

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Continuing towards that theme, here are two quotes from a recent Harvey Mansfield review of Steven Bilakovics new book, which could possibly help explain how, say, the Chrysler building and St. Patrick’s Cathedral have become two of New York’s most iconic buildings (hint: we’re not a socialist society):

Tocqueville almost uses the above phrase in a chapter on “why American writers and orators are often bombastic.” He says that there is “nothing in-between,” or more literally, “the intermediate space is empty,” implying that there might have been something there. In democratic societies, each citizen is habitually occupied in the contemplation of a very small object: himself. If he raises his eyes, he sees only the “immense object of society” or even the whole human race. If he leaves his normal concerns, he expects it to be for something indefinitely vast instead of something definite and greater than himself.”

Artists have a particularly tough time in America, because they’re often particularly alone in America.  Ezra Pound and T.S Eliot abandoned the place completely, and many aspiring artists get their training in Europe. This blog believes Wallace Stevens to especially be representative of this dilemma (he never left).  He was an insurance executive by day and perhaps one of America’s best poets;  a romantic, a modernist, as well as a man who possibly had a deathbed conversion to Christianity:  From The NY Times Via A & L Daily: Helen Vendler On Wallace Stevens ‘The Plain Sense Of Things’

On this view, being the good democratic citizens that we are, we reject the aristocratic elements from gaining too much traction, and thus do not create the vine-ripened literary, artistic, and cultural traditions that can make good artists into what they become, and what makes European cities, novels, poets, museums, and Europeans themselves something of what they are (a broad brush, I know).

I think Mansfield’s point is that some folks in the U.S see this dilemma of the democratic man only in terms of a vulgar materialism that must be overcome with the Arts, or High Culture, or Poetry or with a ‘Let’s be like Europe’ approach, especially in many a Liberal Arts Department.  It’s a deep wish.  Democracy is a leveling force.   It’s worth pointing out that the Arts can also be united with a Left-of-Center political philosophy as they are at NPR for popular consumption.  On this site, see: From ReasonTV Via Youtube: ‘Ken Burns on PBS Funding, Being a “Yellow-Dog Democrat,” & Missing Walter Cronkite’Repost-From NPR: Grants To The NEA To Stimulate The Economy?

Some of these same folks see religion (the Puritan roots especially) as a restrictive, repressive force that needs to be overcome in order for freedom, free artistic expression and individual autonomy to flourish (I believe this is a driving tension in Hollywood).  There’s some truth to this, because I believe religion and politics, and even philosophy itself, have troubled relationships with art.

Mansfield goes on:

‘The theorists of materialism tell us that the long term will take care of itself so long as we do not obstruct materialism in the short run in our everyday lives. With a view to supporting political liberty, Tocqueville wants to limit everyday materialism and to concern us with a long-term goal, such as improving our immortal souls. This is why he fears for the state of democratic souls and speaks so strongly, if not fervently, in favor of religion. This is also why he showed such disgust for socialism.’

Perhaps we can keep it simpler, and not get taken with grand theories, or at least socialist ones anyways:

Too much politics into the arts?


First National Bank of Houlton, Maine

Related On This Site:  From Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit’…Marketplace aesthetics in service of “women”: Dove’s Campaign For Real Beauty: Pascal Dangin And Aesthetics

Some of Le Corbusier’s work here, examples of Modern Architecture here.

See AlsoBrasilia: A Planned City and Review Of Britain’s “Lost Cities” In The Guardian

Cities should be magnets for creativity and culture? –From The Atlantic: Richard Florida On The Decline Of The Blue-Collar ManFrom Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit’… some people don’t want you to have the economic freedom to live in the suburbs: From Foreign Policy: ‘Urban Legends, Why Suburbs, Not Cities, Are The Answer’

Philosopher Of Art Denis Dutton of the Arts & Letters Daily says the arts and Darwin can be sucessfully synthesized: Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’

How might Nietzsche figure in the discussion, at least with regard to Camille Paglia.  See the comments:  Repost-Camille Paglia At Arion: Why Break, Blow, Burn Was Successful…Here’s Nietzsche scholar J.P. Stern on Nietzsche’s anti-Christian, anti-secular morality (Kant, utilitarians), anti-democratic, and anti-Greek (except the “heroic” Greek) biases…

Nothing that Allan Bloom didn’t point out in the Closing Of The American Mind: Update And Repost: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’

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