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Reply to "The Spiritual Problem With Modernist Art"

art_gurl,

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And therefore subjective, which all discussion of art ultimately is.
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While most discussion of art is subjective, not all of it is. The history of art is not, and discussions of art schools and methods is not, either. That was the discussion that I started. You will note that I did not judge the individual works of artists except for Jackson Pollack, and then only to the extent of saying that his art is all very similar to itself. That is very clear to anyone who views his work.

I think we are talking about two different things, here. You are talking about art and its meaning(s). I am not. I am talking about its aims as it is expressed by philosophers of art and of other parts of life. Ortega y Gassett did not limit himself to discussing art. However, I quote him in some of his thought. It is there for anyone to read, and he wrote it so that everyone could understand it, even the masses, whom he so obviously hated. That is not altogether subjective.

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Sorry but I consider this a ridiculous statement. All creative expression is in some way or another about communication. Whether it is a one-way or two-way message. Painters don't seek to be obscure, they seek to express themselves.
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That's not altogether true. That is, the statement was not quite ridiculous. Artists can and sometimes do consider some people as "beneath" them. Ortega certainly did. The Beat Generation certainly did. The Dada artists certainly did. Certainly, artists seek to express themselves, which means that there are people to express themselves to. That was not what I said. What I said was that modernist artists (and not everyone who paints in the modern era is a modernist artist--Fredrick Remington and Charles Russell come immediately to mind) painted quite deliberately for people who were not "common." That is, they sought to exclude a great number of people from their art. I find it interesting that this phenomenon is limited almost solely to the visual arts. Except for the Dadaists and some of the surrealists (not all), poets as a general rule did not join in this cultured despising of the masses. Painters often did--and very likely often still do.

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Criticism from who? Other artists? Critics? Society? You can't accuse art of being shocking and obscure AND safe at the same time (as per your first quote). If it can do both then it is very, very clever art!
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In fact one can so accuse modernist art. To make it "safe" from criticism is not to assure that it is not criticized. It is to so make it that the criticism doesn't matter to the artist because those who criticize it "do not understand" it, and so do not matter. The safety is in the mind of the artist. Therefore the art does not have to be "clever." It only needs to be "high" (whatever that means. The Term Without a Definition is the operative concept). Thus shielded from the criticism of the Great Unwashed, the artist can paint or write whatever is thought of, because there is no "right" or "wrong," no "good" or "bad" in art, and those who criticize it are merely those who are too base, too much of the "masses" to understand. Artists say so.

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I think the Harry Potter stories are popular because they let children and adults ˜play' in a SAFE imaginary world of witches and spells, supernatural and other worlds, and you can't begin to know how happy I am that the christian right haven't banned her books because of that.
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Yes, the Christian Right has banned so many books, like...um...

You are right, but I was not talking about popularity. Popularity does not mean that a work is good or bad. It only means that it is popular.

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I didn't know Rowling was a publicly-declared christian. Have christians in fact embraced her ˜christianity' because she is so successful? Being one of the few people on the planet who haven't read any Harry Potter books (one day I will) can you tell me if there is a particularly christian theme/narrative in her stories?
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I didn't know that Rowling was a Christian, either. Where did you get that information? If you inferred it from what I wrote, you'll have to read it again. I did not say that Rowling was a Christian. I merely said

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She writes more as a Christian than many others have done.
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And that is quite different from saying that she is a Christian. One can write like one in many ways without being one. Since Rowling was not writing about theology, we can't say anything about her Christianity or lack of it, and since my point was only about her consideration of others, the statement was a little bit of irony, but with a point. She is one of those modern writers who is not modernist, who writes considerately of her audience, and thus writes with more heart than many others have done.

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It also sounds like you want writers and painters to make it easy for you to understand?
What makes them obliged to do that?
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Then you misread my words. I don't particularly care if they write or paint in a way easy for me to understand. My point was that modernist painters (and, again, not every modern painter is a modernist painter) deliberately paint in ways that make their paintings inaccessible to the masses because modernist art is based on a philosophy of despising the masses. Hence my quoting of Ortega.

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The whole point is an artist is expressing themselves not obliged to translate it into a version you might understand! Part of the communication process is your participation as the person viewing the image/written word - the thought process between the message and you. Your role is to think about, and at least attempt to digest/decode the the message. Maybe there is no message. Maybe that is the message!? The idea is to be involved with the art.
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I agree with most of this. Yes, the viewer has the responsibility of learning to understand the art and the artist. My post was not a plea for "Dick-and-Jane" art. It was information on the philosophy of modern art, more a warning of taking modern art at face value without knowing what that face includes. Modern art, which does not include all contemporary art, is based on pride, on a self-exaltation that deliberately sneers at those who do not like it, who disagree with it and wish for something else.

Granted, there are those who come to art with a truly boorish attitude no less selfish than the most self-absobed dauber in a garrett. They have their reward, which is to have no reward at all. But modern art very often is just as self-absorbed as the masses that the artists often deride.

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Does Rowling's writing appeal to you personally, Melesi? If so, why?
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Appeal? Yes and no. Not in the same way that Shakespeare does, or Joseph Conrad, or Chekov, Dostoyevski, Jules Verne, Alexandre Dumas, Dickens, or even Tolkien or a number of others do. But in her own way, yes. The plots are familiar, but the characterizations are very good, and she writes with a light hand that tells me that she does not take herself so seriously that she gets in the way of her story. I enjoy her books, but I don't think that they are great literature, and I doubt that I will read them again, for they do not deal with the great questions. In Chekov's "The Black Monk," for example, at the end the reader is left asking, "Is he mad but happy, or happy but mad?" Rowling doesn't leave one pondering important questions, for she doesn't deal with any. As a result, she doesn't stretch herself and explore strange new thoughts, nor does she ask that her reader stretch and think. She writes entertainment, not literature. That's fine in its place, but it won't be literature for the ages.

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I'm also wondering if you are having a problem with the 'spirituality' in modern art, or with modern art itself.
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Thanks for asking. Much better to do that than to suspect. No, it is not modern art that I have a problem with. I enjoy learning, even about art I disagree with.

It's the spirituality that is wrong. I disagree with quite a bit--not all--of modern music (that is, classical music like Tibbetts and Ives and Stravinsky) because I disagree with its worldview. It seeks to describe a world that does not exist and to say that it does. The musicianship is superb, the construction often flawless, the music even in many cases beautiful. It's just wrong. Art is often like that.
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