Peeks and Piques! On “Modern” Art
By Raymond J. Steiner
ART TIMES Winter 2014
EVERY NOW & then, I still run into someone who asks me why I tend to ignore 'modern' art and I always readily admit to a deep bias to all its myriad manifestations, trends, politics, movements, isms, agendas and earth shattering, mind-blowing, 'cutting' edges. I usually point out (if they seem truly interested in my 'why') that since its inception in 1984, ART TIMES has always tried to take what I call the "long view", readily giving over our pages to the recognized past masters as well as those artists of today who follow in their footsteps, faithfully learning the 'basics' to produce equally 'good' art. My 'bias' stems from the knowledge that, historically, most 'modern' art was 'born' after World Wars I & II, both of which harshly revealed our feckless 'morality' and the cruel and senseless underbelly of our so-called 'civilization'. Whether rightfully or not, philosophers, soothsayers, pundits, politicians, theologians — and, yes — even artists, aestheticians, and critics eagerly jumped on the bandwagon, proclaiming the world rotten, corrupt, meaningless, ugly, and just plain 'shit', and that it was the artist's 'duty' to 'tell it like it is' and to quit producing 'phony' idyllic beauty. (Some months back, I participated in a small group show in which 3 or 4 representational works ((a few of my 'idyllic' landscapes included)) were hung alongside one non-representational artist who I overheard claim that she was the only "honest" artist there). 'Isms' and 'ists' abounded, all armed with manifestoes, rationalizations, apologies, catchy labels ("Dada", Surrealism", "Futurism", Suprematism, "Cubism", "Fauvism", "Constructionism", "Op", "Pop","Outsider", etc., etc. etc.), and justifications as to why it's 'hip' for artists to produce crap henceforth. Discrediting classicism and classicists, they succeeded in convincing artists that even human excretion in a jar or a crucifix in urine is not only 'art' but relevant 'art'. Persuading an uncultured and aesthetically-ignorant moneyed class to patronize such 'art' was easy — after all, middlemen had been serving clueless and wealthy royalty as art 'pundits' since they saw how easy it was to convince Catherine the Great (and her father, Peter) to buy 'art' by the truckload, because whatever it 'meant', collecting 'art' showed the world that they were 'cultured' (Peter's only direction to his middlemen was "Don't buy bad art.") One need only weed out substantives (nouns) that purport to define what you are seeing from the adjectives, conjunctions, adverbs, modifiers and 'fluff' that professional art bloviators freely employ to 'magnify' their 'criticisms' so that they can earn their 'cut' of the profits. Well, I've tried to avoid touting stuff I don't believe in (or even like) in ART TIMES merely to appear 'au courant'. To be blunt, I just don't care about your angst, your anger, your politics, your agendas, issues, hot buttons. fetishes or feigned inscrutability, nor want visual renditions of same on my walls. I want my life enhanced by viewing 'good' art and not reading about it ala some bloviator's hyped jargon. To me, 'crap' in a jar is still 'crap' and, if I want such negatives in my life, there's always prime time news that can supply it ad nauseum. ART TIMES has managed to survive with its benighted views for over 30 years, witnessing several "hip slicks" come and go during our tenure — so why fix what ain't broke?
Read more from Steiner at: rjsteiner.wordpress.com