Thursday, June 29, 2017

32  Tired Old Marcel and Andy

     There are two 20th century artists that I'm really tired of, Marcel Duchamp and Andy Warhol.  Has their influence been large?  Huge actually.  Huge partly because historians and critics won't stop writing about them and huge because museums won't stop exhibiting them.
     Has their influence been positive?  That depends what your definition of "positive" is (ha ha).
     Okay.  Has their influence been cleansing?  In many ways-yes.  Duchamp cleaned out the old boy's club fussiness of the Paris salon and its tired definition of visual art.  Warhol helped to sweep out the rather worn personal and emotional wallowing of later abstract expressionism.  But eventually, Duchamp ushered in an era of cynicism about the value of aesthetics and Warhol shared and infected us with his love of cloying celebrity-itis and the cost-benefit delights of mass production in art.  
     So, the reality of art as product is now accepted and rewarded, thank you Andy.  And the demoralizing cynicism of Duchamp has sunk its roots.  Thank you Marcel.

     So what's the problem?  The problem is that what has gone missing as messieurs Duchamp and Warhol have left their imprint on 20th and 21st century visual art-is the importance of soul.
     Soul is the gift given to us by jazz, blues and expressionism.  Soul is the ingredient that makes us feel something other than a jaded cynicism-such as left behind by the Dystopian Duo.
     When I hear much of my son's contemporary music playlist it often contains an electronic pounding that beats my brain up. Can an electronic machine bring us the euphoric and thrilling feelings that come with listening to a Coltrane sax or Clapton guitar?  Okay, life might be shit-but listen to this!
     Does a factory produced visual object give us a reason to keep looking?  Or is it just another soul-depleting product that begs to be purchased? 
     Isn't the point of fine art to find beauty with our eyes?  To find something deeply felt by another that also makes us feel?  To use a different language (aesthetics) to know life?

31  If something is hopeless, does it follow that it is pointless?

     I have told both of my kids that if you love art, make a lot of money so you can buy it.
     But-don't become an artist.
     Living off of one's paintings, sculptures, or whatever medium-is essentially hopeless.
     It's always been almost impossible-but there is a big difference today.  Life is far more expensive than thirty or more years ago.  If an artist wants to build a studio hut out in the Mojave-well maybe then it can work out.  But that pesky climate warming could be a problem.
     Putting aside the annoyance of buying food and shelter; if something is hopeless does it follow that it is pointless?
     Imagine life without artists and their (our) creative outpourings.  There will still be lots of Beamers, Mercedes, $500 sandals, vacations, jet skis, good wine, golf courses and designer jeans.  BUT-no paintings, sculptures, Shakespeare productions (stage actors are also artists) or cellists.  Still, lots of computer games and expensive racing bikes available.  But no jazz clubs or contemporary dance.
     Most, or many people think they do value serious art forms.  But do they have any idea where art comes from? The personal price that each artist pays to make art?  Not really.  Today art, as reported in the media, is a product for the rich to buy at auction or in a gallery  and then have shipped to a freeport (a tax free haven where the "object" can sit in climate controlled storage for eternity, sort of a suspended animation for expensive stuff).  At the bottom end, for the plebes, art is something one gawks at in a museum once a year.  Art is simply something out there-somewhere.
     What if artists and art vanished.  Just gone, poof.  How would human life change?  Or would it?  Perhaps not.  After all, can people miss what they don't understand to have existed in the first place?  Perhaps not.  Poof.