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Friday, October 12, 2012

The echo chamber

On Camille Paglia, "How Capitalism Can Save Art"

While I don't agree that there are no interesting new works in visual arts, and I also don't agree that there are no influential painters or other artists, I did find much of this article relevant to both visual arts and writing.

As for artists, try looking for those who are not "of" the trendy, commercial art world. Look in unexpected places. (The same goes for writers. Think that too many writers who win awards and are lauded are the "expected" names and sometimes undeserving? Cast your net wider.)

As for influence makers, look to painters like Makoto Fujimura, who founded International Arts Movement and has been a great leader in realms of painting, the arts, and religion. Take a look at his biography here if you don't believe artists can be leaders on the national and world-wide level--presidential appointee to the National Council of Arts, founder of IAM and the Fujimura Institute, an artist with solo shows around the world, a speaker and culture maker.

I would like to see an energetic critic tackle the art world (and the writing world) we barely see and explore those who deliberately work outside the fashionable, the mainstream, and the academic. Past years of postmodernism and political correctness transformed and even now dictate what is acceptable in the eyes of art journalists.

A few clips that might make you want to read the whole thing:

Unfortunately, too many artists have lost touch with the general audience and have retreated to an airless echo chamber. The art world, like humanities faculties, suffers from a monolithic political orthodoxy—an upper-middle-class liberalism far from the fiery antiestablishment leftism of the 1960s.

Today's blasé liberal secularism also departs from the respectful exploration of world religions that characterized the 1960s. Artists can now win attention by imitating once-risky shock gestures of sexual exhibitionism or sacrilege.

This trend began over two decades ago with Andres Serrano's "Piss Christ," a photograph of a plastic crucifix in a jar of the artist's urine . . . However, museums and galleries would never tolerate equally satirical treatment of Judaism or Islam.

For the arts to revive in the U.S., young artists must be rescued from their sanitized middle-class backgrounds. We need a revalorization of the trades . . .

Creativity is in fact flourishing untrammeled in the applied arts, above all industrial design. . . . But there is no spiritual dimension to an iPhone, as there is to great works of art.

. . . a strange and contradictory culture, where the most talented college students are ideologically indoctrinated with contempt for the economic system that made their freedom, comforts and privileges possible.

In the realm of arts and letters, religion is dismissed as reactionary and unhip. The spiritual language even of major abstract artists like Piet Mondrian, Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko is ignored or suppressed.


  1. Interesting. I don't have any problem with people making fun of Judaism even in a nasty way (not a racist way though). However, given the explosive nature of Islam at the moment, I wouldn't recommend similar treatment of that religion.

  2. There were some other examples in the essay...

    But I gather that she is one of those few academics and intellectuals who is still willing to admit that the Judeo-Christian traditions led to some rather important cultural achievements. Like the flowering of Medieval arts and the Renaissance. Etc.

    Unfortunately ideology trumps clear assessment at our moment in history. But it's just a moment. A rather long moment.

    I agree that such attitudes are not fruitful for young people, particularly artists.

  3. I would say that the 'unhipness' of religion is the thing that interests and draws me most of all!
    Religion means so much to so many people and yet is often dealt with in only critical or derisory/blasphemous ways by so many artists.

    When something becomes unhip, people's reaction to it (in the case, religion) become diverse and fascinating.

    Equally interesting are the mundane middle classes and those born to drab privilege. If they exist (and yes, 'mundane' and 'drab' are my descriptions - but only to make a point) - their Soylent Green worlds are fascinating too!

    Perhaps this is just me though...

  4. Oh, yes, I like that idea...

    And I think that many things that are central to a full human life are now regarded as unhip, unfashionable, unpleasing...

    You know, I think some of that middle class business is about the narrowing of what an artist is and can do. You, for example, mess around in lots of different areas, though you have one that is strongest. But often now artists are very confined in what they do.

    I have to finish my Chartwell Day story because part of that is about doing many different things in one's vocation!

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Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.