Thursday, February 4, 2016


Modern art, as well as other contemporary endeavors, has often deeply bothered me. Yes, quite often I view a modern painting or sculpture, even the most abstract, and will like the look and appreciate it for some reaction in causes in me. But frequently I am convinced that there is a lot of deception going on, some unholy collusion among artists, critics, and brokers designed to promote work that is not worthy so that money flows into pockets of the conspirators. There doesn't seem to be many masters about any more, and realists are shunned as too traditional, despite the fact that they often produce beautiful work. My favorites include Hopper, the Wyeths, Mary Whyte and a host of others (Audubon, Chuck Close, Copley, Homer, O'Keeffe, Rockwell, Tanner, Whistler), and I can enjoy even Pollocks and Harings (and many other styles and pieces). I often love primitive art. But many I don't admire as much, such as Motherwell, Warhol, Nagel. It often depended on the piece. If there is no visual evidence of strenuous work or thought, at least relatively available to the viewer, then I suspect a con is afoot. A canvas painted a single color or inexplicable weirdness (concept pieces), then I am not amused. Often the most-interesting things about some art is the unusual title given it.

One of the most troubling for me was Jean-Michel Basquait, who was the same age as me, though he tragically passed at 27. He was basically a bright young soul swamped by fame, a hustler and conman swept up in the New York avante garde (that used him and helped destroy him, though ultimately one can only blame Basquait). Clearly his appealing physicality and sexuality attracted many admirers of both genders(fellow artists, dealers, and the in crowd), eager to advance his fame. It didn't hurt to associate with major stars, such as Madonna and Warhol. Most of his work I don't like much, but I admit many pieces draw me in, their cartoonish and jarring imagery amazing, their compositions engaging, almost hypnotic. Much of it seems hokey, using text and references to historical events and people, but in a way that feels superficial and fraudulent, as if he were hoping to make it more significant than it warranted as just a piece of art. His style was childish even, though some pieces just knock you over. I wonder how much of his work will be applauded two hundred years from now. Perhaps some, because of his impact and popularity historically. I love Obnoxious Liberals (1982) and Riding With Death (1988), and many others. Surely there is a lot in his paintings for the intellectuals to ruminate on.

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