Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Modern Art is not our culture

This is portrait of Cecila Gallerani, known as “Lady with Ermine” by Leonardo da Vinci.

Is anything else needed than what is in view for the full enjoyment of this painting? Certainly not: everything that the viewer would need to fully inhale the beauty, the sublime refinement is provided by the painter who organized the content in such way that it would force each viewer in each viewing to respond with aesthetic delight.[ Neither Botticelli nor Ghirlandaio could succeed in their portraits to bring  this much presence of the sitter.]  Our innate sense of beauty and the offering of the painting were matched by the painter at such heights of experience we are left with awe.
Indelible experience of gazing at   “Lady with Ermine” [at the Czartoryski Museum in Kraków,Poland] requires no guiding help from an eloquent art critic or erudite art historian. All that is required is naked, direct contemplation.
Leonardo delivered the portrait to Lodovico Sforza in 1490.Let us move now five centuries ahead and see what was praised in Western Art then. Surprisingly, even shockingly when one consider the past five hundred years as time of hard work by very talented artists we arrive at the state of the arts where products presented in the halo of greatness look like this:

Franz Kline

Oh,no! This just must be some grim joke, a monstrous prank to scare us. Sorry, Leonardo- we have let the troglodyte barbarians take over our culture and replace it with their values.
To install excremental work like Kline’s in the temple of the arts could not happen on its own merits because there are none there. It was only possible by orchestrated network of opinion-makers, claque-manufacturers, foam-beaters of acclaim.
The natural, innocent reaction to a work by Kline, Hoffmann, Rauschenberg or Rothko is an instant recognition of total absence of art there, complete lack of aesthetic merit. To promote something so hideous as great art called for New-York size of “chutzpa”, and it worked beyond boldest con-dreams. All those smeary refuse is shown under the protective canopy of modern art “theory” which turns, miraculously, refuse into great art. That is why a cleaning crew, uninitiated into the modern art theory were putting “art-objects” into trash-bins thinking innocently that it was trash.
In essence modern art theory demands that painting has to reject depicting the world and become radically sovereign by concerning itself with forms and colors that do not resemble anything of the world outside of painting. Anything hinting at connection to the real world should be viewed as “anecdotal” and foreign to modern art. This way modern art ushered in formless blobs, chaotic smears, drips and dots, thick deposits of paint when showing how passionate they can be and stripes, squares, circles and angularities when hard edges of their disciplined, analytical approach was to be flaunted. Never thru ought the long history of Occidental art painting sunk so low. What is proudly exhibited in national collections, written about, lauded, awarded, taught at art schools, staring at us as public art, honored as the face of “our” culture is not ours at all. 


  1. Liberalism is a phenomenon that appeared in Western Civilization.
    No where else. It appeared with, or otherwise understood, is identical with humanism. A fully developed, but not fully realised statement of liberalism/humanism can be found in Marlowe's Faustus, who reject all knowing except that which has power, power to do magical things. A contemporary Francis Bacon, in his detailed and hilarious picture of Solomon's house, is very clear that the knowers, the scientists if you will, have all comforts and the prospect of infinite achievement.

    To be very clear: what emerges is a human dream that humanity will
    do its will through politics and science, that humanity will replace God, who has not been minding the store.

    All difficulties of human existence will be eliminated. Illness, poverty, slights and prejudices, low self-esteem: all by man to be eliminated.

    Presently the "scientists," sons of Marlowe and Bacon, are at work
    to make whole and wholesome the downs of capitalism. The ups
    somehow are not in need of science. The confidence of the scientist, in this case the economists, is the last "fidence" of our civilization, the thing we believe. Human beings can and will make all right.

    The relevance of this to the brilliant essays of Henry Fantazos is that in the marvelous tradition of Western Art there came the intrusion of an irritatingly subversive insistence that there is no rule that human beings cannot make up for themselves.

    Not only is God dead, and we in charge, but nature and sensation and observation and skill and exactitude and training and drawing and knowledge of colors and a loving study of the great artists who came before us. All dead. A blank is art. A scrawl is art. A collection of objects is art.

    What is left is the shameless ego that believes it creates itself and its "art." In a hundred places one encounters the vacuous statement of the artist that "he is a work of art."

    No. The world is real. The genius of man may try to abolish it,
    or remake it, or ignore it, retreating into a dreadful emptiness
    that is the apparent source of modern art.

    I am still puzzled by two graffiti I encountered in 1970: "nature
    bats last." And "nature bats cleanup."

    Whichever, Henryk Fantazos and the amazing artists of discipline,
    study, reverence, historical and biological awareness, these still
    persist. These will prevail.

  2. I do love all things da Vinci and nearly everything by Van Gogh and Vermeer and any number of pre-modern masters. However, I am also sometimes mesmerized by a sunset of pure color over the ocean or an aurora in the otherwise featureless sky. Like the sunset, I was stunned by Rothko's Chapel which reached deep into my heart. In a more subtle way, Josef Albers sometimes stimulates my eyes in a manner I do not understand but drives me to try. Paul Klee lightens my heart in a unique manner that requires, I believe, a rare and unusual talent.

    I do not need "guiding help from an eloquent art critic" to appreciate my favorite modern artists any more than I need one to appreciate the abundant natural beauty of the world. On the contrary, art critics generally detract from my appreciation. Most appear to be pompous self-aggrandizing talentless charlatans. Thankfully, I can easily ignore their screeds. Also thankfully, when I encounter something I don't like in a gallery, I can just move on until something does stimulate.

  3. If you can't see the incredible beauty of that gorgeous Franz Kline painting you've posted here, all it means is that you have very limited vision and a very small sensibility for art.

  4. To "Anonymous": "gorgeous Franz Kline"!!!! I do have as you astutely pointed out "very small sensibility for art".I hoped no one would uncover that too soon, but my inability to see the "gorgeous" quality in trash-as-art unmasked me.Now I will have to join the sizable row of artists of long millenia who would also think that Klein is an audacious fraud.You know, we had our culture before you and Klein came along.To me it seems like a stark division :either you inhale the art of ascending beauty and you think of Leonardo, or van Eyck or you feed your marginal humanity with klein-food.
    By the way,I don't encourage a protracted exchanges with someone as aesthetically alien as you.It would be pointless.

  5. Anonymous,
    It seems that you are as afraid to give your name in this modest forum as you are afraid to attempt a defense or rationale for "the incredible beauty of that gorgeous Franz Kline painting...". For me you have no more standing here than any other coward does anywhere else. Should you continue to post as "Anon" then I shall pay as much attention to you as I would any other pest or cretin. But enough about bugs.

    I am a simple man who loves the reverie of the eye telling stories to the brain in terms of art. I am no sophisticate. I have no training or education in the wonders of art. My tastes are so simple the they are not much more than visceral. That is not to say that I do not have some appreciation for complexity, structured discord or even mayhem. The visceral aspect relates, powerfully, to what relates to me. And I prefer to be soothed rather than ruffled when it comes to art.

    Sometimes I take the time to read articles about art. Those articles that teach, explain, provide provenance and perspective I find to be useful in forming context. But other articles I simply do not understand. I am attaching a link to an article by Blake Gopnik in the Arts section of the web magazine The Daily Beast. In it he goes about enthusiastically defending musician Bob Dylan's use of other people's photos, including Cartier-Bresson's, as the literal, near "paint-by-numbers" basis for Dylan's series based on "his" (Dylan's) travels in Asia. I was utterly appalled. Sure photography has been the basis for artwork for many, but the artwork was generally not a canvas stretched over a light box that becomes nothing more than a derivation of the photograph.

    I don't like this guy Gopnik. He offends me and he should not be able to do that as he is the critic and I am just the simple reader.

    Oh, one other thing. This is the second article I have read by Gopnik, quite accidentally I might add. I believe, though not certain, that the previous article was one of the oodles that came out about Lucian Freud after his passing. In that article about Freud and this article about Dylan at the Gagosian, Gopnik manages to make the same point and "spends the ink" to declare that "Gerhard Richter, (is) possibly the greatest painter of our current era". Richter is much acclaimed by the cognoscenti so certainly there is something to his work. So I looked him up and looked at pages of his work. To me, as one of the great unwashed, I saw only a few blurred images and a great deal of drawn lines. But it seems to me that Gopnik goes out of his way to champion Richter. And Gopnik is fully credentialed, as you will see when you read his brief bio at the end of the Dylan article.

    So the bunk, crap and bullshit is when a certified, genuine art critic defends Dylan for the theft of photos that he then traces and applies some color to, and is engaged in an apparently ongoing promotion of Richter. Well that's when me and the fancy pants of the art world must go our separate ways.

    Soothe me, don't ruffle me.

    Trout Scanlan

  6. By now in very liberal counting there should be about 7 billion people out of which only one thousand would agree with the adjective "gorgeous" attached to the "paintings" by Franz Kline.The rest of us and the generations that lived before; in short all of humanity would choose to say "it is shit!". There has got to be something telling in that fact.

  7. Franz Kline's work is absolutely gorgeous, he's one of my favorites

  8. Hi, interesting post. Where do you stand when it comes to an artist such as Turner? A brilliant painter, his work moved from reality to something much closer to the Kline shown above - but granted his eyesight was failing toward the end...

  9. Gary- regarding Turner : there is a lot of his paintings at Tate and when I saw them,very much wanting to be enchanted by them I found the experience disappointing.It struck me as vacuous,ineffective at showing fog or rosy dawn,or reflections in water.Claude Loraine did all of it best. To the degree that Turner was heralding Klein it sure was a wrong path to take.
    There are some small watercolors by Turner that are marvelous-something that Klein could never have done because he was not really a painter but a huckster.