Monday, June 15, 2009

ILLUSTRATING INFINITY

"The unutterable and the formless must needs be concealed"
.................--the Pythagorean brotherhood, circa 500 BCE




Saul Steinberg

Illustration art is commonly faulted for its "low" subject matter. Critics complain that, compared to fine art, Norman Rockwell's subjects were cheap and sentimental. Illustrations for the fiction in women's magazine or for shoe advertisements could never compare with "fine" art, where the artist has the freedom to address the most profound subjects.

But of course, there is no limit to the possible subject matter for an illustration.


Michelangelo's illustration of the Book of Genesis

In fact, the subject of an illustration can be more profound than the subject of so-called "fine" art, especially in an era like ours where fine art so often gravitates toward minor themes. Here is the art of contemporary art superstar Jenny Holzer:



Holzer takes platitudes fit for a fortune cookie and converts them into art by projecting them on the sides of buildings or flashing them on electric signs. It's hard to imagine Norman Rockwell settling for such simple minded content.

When it comes to profound, challenging subject matter, you can't aim any higher than the absolute. Great writers and artists sometimes aspire to "catch a glimpse of eternity through the window of time," transcending their small vantage point in history by identifying things immutable and great. Even if the quest for universal principles and eternal truths is a hopeless one, the mere search elevates the artist because it compels him or her to step outside of the fashions and styles of their day and focus on the most permanent things they are capable of conceptualizing. It stretches an artist to create forms commensurate with great themes.

Of course, great themes can also make an artist look foolish, which is one reason most artists don't try to go there any more. If you want to transcend the limitations of your time and place, it is disastrous to get too literal:



Here are some truly lovely examples of illustrations of the origin of the cosmos. These works, which were located and described by art historians Debra Diamond and Catherine Glynn, transcend some of the limitations of their time by reaching out to abstract beauty and putting aside literal solutions:


1. A color field of gold represents "the self-luminous Absolute."

2. The first manifestation of the cosmos

3. The siddha, "exuding silvery light (jyoti) engenders the next level of cosmic light and consciousness."

Now that's what I call sequential art! The difficulty of finding shapes and colors to portray such subjects is underscored by the corresponding text from the ancient Hindu treatise, Shiva Purana:
When the present world is not in existence, the Absolute alone is present. It is incomprehensible to the mind [and] cannot be expressed by words. It has neither name nor color.... it is immeasurable, propless, unchanging, formless, without attributes, perceptible to Yogins, all pervasive and the sole cause of the universe.
This next triptych conveys "The emergence of spirit and matter at the origin of the cosmos." I think spirit is the guy on the left:





One measure of the universal adaptability of this work is that it is compatible with modern scientific theory about the big bang, where the four fundamental forces (gravity, electromagnetism, strong interaction and weak interaction) emerged from nothingness at the origin of the universe.

An artist who attempts to realize timeless ideals by making an imperfect mark on a perishable surface reminds me of the Great Gatsby preparing to kiss Daisy:
He knew that when he kissed this girl, and forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of God. So he waited, listening for a moment longer to the tuning-fork that had been struck upon a star.
And yet, you do it anyway. Without the commitment of that mortal kiss, what's the point of all that perfection?

.

60 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Artists don't try to draw gods and eternity and crap like that anymore. Guess it's cuz we no longer believe in it.

JL

6/16/2009 12:09 PM  
Blogger Yung Kee Hui said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6/16/2009 2:10 PM  
Blogger Yung Kee Hui said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6/16/2009 2:19 PM  
Anonymous Brian said...

The Lords of the art market determine the content of the art, and the distinctions between so-called "fine art" and illustration. It has nothing to do with merit.

Of course, this was always so. The Vatican and the Catholic crowns of Europe were the big collectors and patrons of the arts, and hence, the subject matter shows this. Now the big collectors and patrons are mega-wealthy business owners who use art and artists to push a line of absurdity and ugliness for a definite social purpose.

The main reason of the push for modernism (which is really what you are ridiculing in your piece) was to make the artist a true commodity. When no skill is required to create modernist junk, all artists become replaceable, completely made or broken by the sybaritic Art Lords. In the meantime, they bought up the great realism for pennies on the dollar, in many cases, from the low level rubes who were not in the know. Just another variation on the pump and dump game.

Another reason for the switch to the absurdities and ugliness of modernism is to remake society for the purposes of the elite. Just like all the arts in pre-WWII Germany were reduced to ugliness and nonsense, to help make the people barbaric for the planned wars of the Reich, so to are the arts these days (confer with movies and popular music, rap and metal), for the same purpose. See the book "The Ominous Parallels" by Leonard Peikoff. The elite study how to manipulate the masses psychologically (always have) to get them to do their bidding. That's why the art scene is just trash today.

The new realism will be just as controlled as the old modernism, with the introduction of modernistic ideas and multi-culturalism into what now exists, as the elite remake societies ("globalism") to be common for their industrial purposes. The only real freedom is to create without the monetary reward, because the elite control the money. And he who owns the gold calls the tune.

So that means that most of what we call art is what fits into the agenda of the elite. Illustration can only be fine art if the elite say so. Fine art vs. illustration means just what the elite say is fine art, because it suits their cultural, and not their industrial purposes. That's why the Sistine Chapel ceiling is fine art and not illustration. Because it suits the Vatican's agenda. Get it?

David knows this, of course. But its always nice to see which way the wind blows, isn't it David?

6/16/2009 3:20 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

"Just like all the arts in pre-WWII Germany were reduced to ugliness and nonsense, to help make the people barbaric for the planned wars of the Reich..."

the nazis actually went to great lengths to ridicule the art you describe as ugly nonsense in order to push their own brand of idealised, heroic, Germanic art. haven't you heard of the degenerate art exhibition in which they exhibited a wealth of modern art alongside notes describing why the artists were deranged ?

they were doing the opposite of promoting those artists. interesting bit of art-conspiracy-paranoid-delusion though Brian, thanks.

6/16/2009 4:47 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

Ah infinity...Zzzz! Where's the remote? Who took the remote?

6/16/2009 5:11 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Brian, certainly there was a lot of anti-establishment thought in the air in the war-ridden Europe of 19th century. And artists of that era were not immune to the utopianist message, as it seemed to be, at least, an antidote to the incessant warring among "civilized" nations of that time and place. But aesthetic "radicalism" was hardly decreed.

The politicized gallery system only arose, I would suppose, with the 1940s. But it is very hard to find solid info.

Incidentally, the "family doctor" of the Italian side of my family (The late Doc Paccione, not that Rob would care) bought lots of those great salon era realist paintings during the heyday of modernism because he loved them. He liked big gaudy baroque frames too. Everybody ribbed him about it (not me, wasn't born yet.) as his purchases were considered to be in extremely bad taste by people utterly unconnected with the gallery system and totally disinterested in politics. Luckily for Doc's heirs, he didn't give a crap about any taste but his own.

Which is all to say, Brian, some dots connect, but not all of them.

For instance can you really say that Yung Kee Hui has been brainwashed into thinking that dead animals in formaldehyde or a skull made out of diamonds is profound? Or is it that he's never been exposed to anything but the shallowest art on earth, so he has nothing else more profound against which Hirst's utter shallowness may be judged? Or does Yung Kee Hui just like radical pomo art stuff because its fun and hip and outre and cool, and to him, that's what the word "profound" means?

It is impossible to know.

kev

P.S. Great post David.

6/16/2009 5:54 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Anonymous, I suspect that truths were universal when tribes were confined to regions so they couldn't compare notes and realize that everyone has their own omnipotent god. Now only regionalism is universal.

Yung Kee Hui, welcome! It's good to have you here. I hope that hanging around subversive blogs like this doesn't corrupt your attitude during your first year of art / design school. I believe fine art turns to low art for the same reason that every Hollywood movie today depends on a rock and roll soundtrack: it provides a pulse for what would otherwise be very thin entertainment. Oh, and I put Damien Hirst in the equation as a marketing genius, but one who is at least willing to reinvest some of his proceeds in new work. (P.S.-- around here, there is no such thing as "going off-topic" with a comment. The topic seems to be whatever the comments are!)

Brian, I don't know if I would tie the political side of this together as neatly as you have, but I do think it makes a difference whether the elite patrons of the arts are the Medicis in Florence or the investment bankers and gallery owners in Manhattan. For all I know, they were equally motivated by power and avarice but at least the Medicis took pride in refining their taste. The difference in outcomes is undeniable.

6/16/2009 6:19 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Laurence, I wasn't sure which ugliness Brian was referring to in pre WW II Germany-- the ugliness of the George Grosz types criticizing society from below or the ugliness of the Nazi types criticizing degenerate art from above. I guess there was a lot of ugliness to go around, but that was apparently an era where people actually seem to have cared about the message of art. Now they would shrug.

Rob-- you don't get off that easy. Sure, there are an infinite number of ardent adolescents in an infinite number of dorm rooms trading an infinite number of words about infinity. Infinity is a gauntlet that easily makes younger artists look ridiculous and makes older artists reach for the remote. But infinity is there in Beethoven, don't pretend that you don't hear it, and it is there in Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass. I don't think artists create at that level of greatness without (pardon the coarse metaphor) swinging for the fences. I think it would be a mistake to let the over abundance of tiresome failures distract us from the contemplation of that greatness.

6/16/2009 6:43 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Hey, Kev-- go easy on poor Yung Kee Hui. He's a civilian here. By the way, have you seen Hirst's shark in real life? The concept has some intriguing glamour to it (as does the skull) but when you see it up close you can see where the skin is beginning to wrinkle and decay (notwithstanding the formaldehyde) and where tiny bits of organic matter from the shark have settled on the bottom of the tank. Instead of being sleek and ominous it is just gross and pathetic.

6/16/2009 6:51 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

I dunno, David. I really do try not to be jaded when talk turns to the main topic at Camp Jejune, but I go with Ann Coulter's approach, when she spoke of how she used to just lie around like a lazy slug, eating and sleeping and doing nothing...then she had her first birthday. In my case, no longer pondering the infinite depths coincided with first shaving.

Yeah, there are some imponderables in Beethoven's music...but they're imponderable and I let them go at that. People like him don't come along to often and from what I understand about those who were around him, that's a welcome thing for the un-infinite guy.

Trying to dissect that sort of thing speaks to the naive hope that, with just a little luck, a lot of words and the combined intelligence represented on YouTube, we just might crack the secret code of the universe. That way may not lay madness but is sure is peppered with every kind of religious and philosophical charlatan since time began...or maybe fifteen minutes after time began. The only interest...useful interest I've ever found for infinity has been the lazy eight on my camera lenses. Past that, I keep trying to change the channel and get away from the kiddie shows.

6/16/2009 8:46 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

So not only was Hirst's shark statement skin-deep, but even that flaked off!

Poetic Justice!

6/16/2009 9:17 PM  
Anonymous Brian said...

"the nazis actually went to great lengths to ridicule the art you describe as ugly nonsense in order to push their own brand of idealised, heroic, Germanic art...they were doing the opposite of promoting those artists. interesting bit of art-conspiracy-paranoid-delusion though Brian, thanks."

You have no clue what you are talking about. The decline of the arts before the National Socialists took power during the Weimar Republic was chock full of complete decline. But you make the mistake of thinking that the artists rule the art market, and that they were simply charting a new course. The art movements never come from below, they come from above. So the same people who patronized the decadent art of the Weimar Republic were the same ones who put the Nazis in power--the same industrialists and financial powers. Figure that one out.

Or maybe you think that all those folks in the southwest art market today really LOVE to paint indians all day every day, ad nauseum, or do photo-portraits of rich folk. The money calls the tune, guy. The artists who call their own shots make little or teach a lot-a LOT.

As far as paranoia, did you know that just five major corporations control almost all the media in this country? Did you ever ask why the nightly news is practically the same from network to network? Do you think that these boys at the top don't collude together to feed you what they want, rather than the truth?

What incentive do any of these corporations have to tell you the truth about anything? That you'll quit watching and go...where for your news? They own it all. Where will you go?

We have a top-down society where the dupes on the bottom think its bottom-up--that they run things. You don't run anything. And you especially don't determine what is labelled fine art or not. That's for the money people who rig the market.

It was nice to hear Rob Howard admit he has no ideals, but rather a practical nose for getting ahead, no matter how corrupt things are. That explains a lot.

6/17/2009 12:50 AM  
Blogger Yung Kee Hui said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6/17/2009 4:04 AM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

"The decline of the arts before the National Socialists took power during the Weimar Republic was chock full of complete decline."

not remotely convincing Brian, sorry.

"The art movements never come from below, they come from above."

powerful people buy art as status symbols and as an investment... to decorate offices and stately homes. most don't have a clue what they're looking at. if they're told it's the latest IN thing by the critics who are they to argue ?

it's your bit about the elite-funded ugly art intended to turn the people barbaric that really tickles me. you haven't been listening to Alex Jones by any chance ?

6/17/2009 4:14 AM  
Anonymous bhanu Pratap said...

Umm a little correction there, Mr Apatoff,
In hindu mythology , the spirit or the energy(called "shakti" is always female) and matter/form ("roop") is male.
Thanks for the conversation guys.

6/17/2009 7:08 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Rob, your comment raises two important issues.

The first is how you manage to invoke the name "Ann Coulter" without turning into a pillar of salt. We can save that topic for the dinner we are going to have someday.

But the second and more important issue is at the heart of my reason for this post. I understand your point about Camp Jejeune and I agree that no one is going to find the secret recipe for becoming a genius by reading biographies of Beethoven. Fair enough. However, how do you respond to the fact that the greatest works of art, the ones that define our species and are still most worthy of our attention today are the ones that wrestle with eternal themes? From the time that Homer sang the wrath of Achilles until Ishmael alone escaped to tell you, great artists embraced those big, universal issues that we are too darn clever to address today. Run your finger down Bloom's western canon and you will find works of huge ambition-- Milton's Paradise Lost, Cervantes, Dante, Shakespeare, Goethe's Faust, my beloved Whitman-- these writers were not embarrassed by themes of creation, good and evil, eternity and other topics that our smug and sardonic generation now finds so awkward.

It is possible that with all the water over the dam, artists are no longer able to believe in such uncool themes. The age of faith is far behind us, the sun has set on the age of reason and Superman is dead. Perhaps it will never be meaningful to talk about absolutes again. Does that mean that artists are relegated to snarky, cunning observations about bite size topics? Our mordant culturati seem convinced of this (to the extent they have any convictions at all). And I am prepared to be convinced too, if that's the way the facts point. I like to think that if and when the next Beethoven appears he or she will be undeterred by this kind of environment, but their job certainly won't be made easier by a culture that identifies young talent at formative stages, combined with a class of small minded critics who run to pick and tear at anything ambitious.

Why should I let the tiresome, ungainly aspects of camp Jejeune cause me to barricade my heart against such big works?

6/17/2009 7:55 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Bhanu, you win the trophy for the day (and perhaps for the month) as the commenter who writes in with an actual, hard piece of empirical information rather than an opinion or a judgment. I love comments like that, thanks for the correction. It was not clear to me from the caption under the painting which was spirit and which was matter, but it makes perfect sense that the spirit would be female.

I have been studying 17th and 18th century court paintings from the Rathore dynasty of Marwar and I find them absolutely breathtaking. They are so beautiful they send chills up my spine. I wish I knew more about the religion and the mythology that underlies the work of all the Jodhpur artists. Please feel free to chime in if you have anything more to contribute.

6/17/2009 8:18 AM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

Yung Kee Hui,

Damien Hirst is a cynical self-promoting businessman, more akin to an advertising excec than an artist. i don't think he will be happy until he has at least one huge Damien Hirst store, with all the luxury minimalist trappings of a Prada store... "the butterfly paintings come in gold, silver and matt black. thank you for shopping at Damien Hirst".

the really clever bit is that he's fooled the art world, but not the public.

6/17/2009 8:18 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Brian, a little skepticism and epistemology might be in order.

Nassim Taleb: "We are more comfortable seeing the world as something structured, ordinary, and comprehensible"

Our common errors:

Narrative fallacy: creating a story post-hoc so that an event will seem to have an identifiable cause. (Any given thesis about history, especially those written from an ideological perspective.)

Ludic fallacy: believing that the unstructured randomness found in life resembles the structured randomness found in games. (The world is controllable, and all men but game pieces.)

An illusion of understanding of current events (After listening to talking heads on TV, say. Who themselves are just cramming overnight for their daily appearance.)

A retrospective distortion of historical events (Any "take" on events by any given scribbler, including the most famous and respected ones, will be a distortion. The idea of news itself is a distortion. Most of life is not newsworthy, thus it is left out of the narrative of history, thus history is distorted.)

Once we have our "narrative" set we get:

Confirmation Bias: A tendency to search for or interpret new information in a way that confirms one's preconceptions and to irrationally avoid information and interpretations which contradict prior beliefs. (I call this "Funnel Vision". We all fall into it sometimes.)

The above modes of thinking lead directly to conspiratorial narratives and use of phrases like "Don't you people get it!" and "Its no accident that..." and especially the ad hominem fave, "Dupes!"

6/17/2009 12:04 PM  
Blogger Benjamin De Schrijver said...

"Bhanu, you win the trophy for the day (and perhaps for the month) as the commenter who writes in with an actual, hard piece of empirical information rather than an opinion or a judgment. I love comments like that, thanks for the correction. ..."

Amen! Bhanu's post was more enlightening and interesting than any of the self-indulgent opinion pieces that are the norm in the comments on this blog these days. You say nothing is off-topic in the comments here, and I wish that wasn't so. I wish we were still discussing things such as subject matter, technique and beauty, relating to whatever your original post was about. Your writings are still as interesting and thought-provoking as ever, but I'm really having trouble looking forward to the next one if they're inevitably followed by 150 comments about historical details, opinions on Hirst and Koons, what is art and what isn't, who has the right to be called an artist and who doesn't, or even each other's debating skills, all shallow talk no matter how many words are used or experience and research was needed to be able to formulate it (or to have earned the right to formulate it in the eyes of some commenters here), and all by the same 4-5 people who think very highly of themselves and their beliefs.
Let's just go back to writing down which thoughts are brought up by the original post, and discussing thát with each other, rather than picking out a single sentence of another commenter's post and debating it for the next week or so, or up until an even more radical/stupid/uninformed/artistically blasphemous sentence comes along. And if you don't really care about the original post, that's fine, there's really no need to comment at all.

6/17/2009 1:37 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

nice weather isn't it.

6/17/2009 1:43 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Lead the way, Benjamin.

6/17/2009 2:37 PM  
Blogger Benjamin De Schrijver said...

Hey, we're all here because we love art. And that's pretty much the only thing David writes about: why he loves art, or things he loves about art. I just think sharing each other's thoughts about that is more interesting conversation than these long discussions about things other than that, or trying to prove right or wrong.

If David's fine with this evolution of the blog, great. But I just wanted to throw that thought in.

6/17/2009 2:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Benjamin, you do see how your last posts are just the same as the posts you complain about, don't you? More opinion, now your opinion of right and wrong, of how things should be.

6/17/2009 3:56 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

David, you raise a number of points that deserve careful consideration instead of the usual boilerplate of "love of art" and all that fanzine stuff. Certainly, all of the names you cited represent humanity at its very best.

They are rarae aves and I fail to see how we mere mortals can relate to them. Certainly not those among us reiterating what our teachers taught us. The single quality that seems to run through all of them is the courage to stand apart from that mosquito-like swarm of humanity that buzzes in unison...that is, standardized, mannerly, don't-rock-the0boat people. They are in the majority of the Pareto principle so the idea of them contemplating the bust of Homer or Beethoven is akin to wondering if my sweet natured dog is secretly studying astrophysics.

I agree with Mark Steyn about the inevitability of demographic shifts...actually, after seeing Idiocracy, I'm more in Mike Judge's camp. Lately, there have been a number of movies made about people with various sorts of immortality. My favorite is the cable series, True Blood. What is only lightly touched upon is the bone-deep ennui those immortals must feel after seeing humans who consider themselves oh-so-intelligent (hey, they have a degree, so they must be intelligent) doing the same things over and over...as predictable as ducks in a shooting gallery. Only a tiny elite ever respond. The rest react and can be made to react in the way the puppet-master sees fit.

So thinking that those people on the large side of the Pareto curve can read Melville and see it as being more than a rousing whaling yarn, are few and far between. Then, to think that the insights they gained from it (most likely the movie) can be applied in their own work is risible in the extreme.

There's a sound reason that most misanthropes are old rather than young (misanthropy in the young is usually just a pose).

I am not saying that you should barricade your heart against the finer examples of human achievement. I'm just saying that you shouldn't expect to see miraculous catharses arising from the average Mickey D diner. I know that we are fortunate in that all assembled are extraordinarily talented and flush with interesting and novel ideas never, ever thought before, but somehow, some great social pressure...some Star Chamber called The Art Establishment makes a point of frittering away billions on utter crap for the sole purpose of keeping the "real" artists in our midst from attaining the stature they so justly deserve.

Hey, like everyone else, I'll buy into that. I could have had the fame of a Damien Hirst (a mere marketer and flim-flam artist from what my betters tell me) if only I had attended more of those meetings at Art Establishment headquarters (are they still at 455 Madison? Seeing that everyone is so conversant with their evil plot, they must know the location and phone number).

It's a conspiracy, I tell ya...a conspiracy! If it wasn't and if the world was just and not controlled by big business, all of us would be hanging in the Met.

As far as Ann Coulter, I thought you'd appreciate my quoting one of your fellow lawyers ;-)

6/17/2009 4:04 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Not to go on-topic here, but isn't all Great Art expressing infinity by expressing metaphysical notions? (I'm assuming that the notions manifested by great art are true by definition.) How can truth be finite?

Rob, fyi, most of your collegiate targets probably have skimmed Moby Dick in book form, on school assignment. But the vast majority actually "know" Moby Dick only through Cliffnotes, the means by which they were able to regurgitate the book's academically-ratified symbolism for a term paper. So rather than a rousing yarn, they might only know the book as a symbol-laden myth. However, the symbolism would only hold meaning for them insofar as it finds its proper place in the paper they manufacture to make the grade. They probably would not have seen the movie because black and white movies are "old and suck and don't have special effects."

6/17/2009 5:03 PM  
Blogger emikk said...

"all of eternity rests within the now", similarly, "a man of Tao is a worthless man."

6/17/2009 5:15 PM  
Anonymous Brian said...

"The decline of the arts before the National Socialists took power during the Weimar Republic was chock full of complete decline."

not remotely convincing Brian, sorry."

I'm not trying to convince anybody of anything. Those are just the facts. If you aren't convinced by facts, then sorry for you, Laurence. That's history, not conjecture or opinion.

And art, be it movies, literature, music, pictures, etc., is not just a trinket of the wealthy. With their money they make the market. They use this power to push their agendas. How can you watch movies, TV, or listen to poplar music and not see this? And they don't have to control the whole market, just the top. Then all the wannabees will imitate what is attracting the big money because they want a piece of it too.

To not understand that the major entertainment and cultural markets are controlled, and always have been, is simply amazing. You really need to read some history.

As far as the ambition to take up spiritual themes in painting these days, who exactly is buying religious art? There used to be many artists who expressed religious or mythological themes, because there was a market for it. But not now. If the Art Lords wished to have substance, they would get it. But they don't. Certainly the monothesitic religions are off limits, like Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Maybe the earth-worship and pantheistic religions are okay, like American Indian mythology and Buddhism.

The truth is that there are some artists willing to tough it out and express their most sublime thoughts, but there is no market for it, so you don't see it in the galleries or illustration market.

Once again its the money that calls the tune.

BTW, please explain, given the gritty reality of "making a living", why it is that Sargent, Sorolla, Zorn, et al, who made their money doing portraits, did most of their greatest work just for grins, painting the life around them on their own time?

6/17/2009 6:52 PM  
Anonymous Brian said...

PS to Kev Ferrara,

If conspiracies to control markets for the purpose of consolidating power and making money are just "theories", please explain the Sherman Anti-Trust Act (and also the history of industrial trusts, the involvement of robber baron money and their "charitable foundations" in remaking american, education, culture, and politics).

Please also explain the ongoing and massive consolidation of industries into larger and larger corporate monoliths.

But to yourself, because I already know about it, and why its done. Not theories Kev, but facts.

Thanks.

6/17/2009 7:04 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Brian, no doubt there are conspiracies, no doubt there are cartels and monopolies and the like. No doubt that marxist philosophy in various guises moves ideological robots to demand that all matter within their purview conform to their religion. No doubt ideas about "fascist aesthetics" move boneheaded marxoids to reject any realistic work as being inherently fascistic (and there goes portraitures, religious art, illustration, etc.)

That is a part of what is going on, no doubt. But it is not the whole story. Not by a long shot.

Your notion that "The elite study how to manipulate the masses psychologically (always have) to get them to do their bidding," smacks of illuminati conspiracy horsehockey.

Here is what N.C.Wyeth said about modernists he met up with. See if this smacks of political conspiracy: 21st April 1916, ". I got into a genuine nest of post impressionist of the rankist [sic] kind. Duchamp - the-nude-descending-the-staircase man, and all the other nuts. I've kept my mind entirely open to this movement and have struggled to derive some benefit, and if possible to sympathize with their viewpoint. I spent a night at one of their clubs on Madison Ave. Enough! They are entirely without aim or principle - a motley lot of charlatans, most of them, with no head nor tail to their endeavors unless it is to be different - goddamn the word. I worship individuality, but one can't manufacture it!!"

6/17/2009 7:45 PM  
Anonymous Brian said...

Kev,

"Your notion that "The elite study how to manipulate the masses psychologically (always have) to get them to do their bidding," smacks of illuminati conspiracy horsehockey."

Excuse me, but have you ever heard of the Advertising industry? Pulic Relations, maybe? You think the government doesn't do this too?

Exactly how naive are you?

Who picked the modernist nutjobs and subsidized their careers, rather than letting them careen off into asylums? Why?

6/17/2009 7:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excuse me, does anyone know of a blog where the discussions aren't overrun by self-righteous, pugnacious know-it-alls?

6/17/2009 8:07 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

David, let's not overlook one of the monumental heavy-hitters of the last century, Igor Stravinsky (today's his birthday). Back then, the orchestra had to have courage because the audience arrived with baskets of vegetable ready to pelt. They even got so enraged by that, 'ow you say..."self-righteous, pugnacious know-it-all" that the anonymous mosquitoes left their fever swamp en masse and attacked the orchestra. No one celebrates the birthdays of the swarm, just that of the pugnacious know-it-all who actually had the courage to part from the crowd.

Happy Birthday, dear Igor, happy birthday to you!

6/17/2009 9:07 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

ok Brian, to stick with the example i questioned above... let's say the 'elite' DID foster the 'decadent' art of the Weimar period in order to turn the people barbaric as you claim (most of the art was anti-war, anti-capitalist but let's ignore that for now). you're saying that they suddenly changed tack, deciding to ridicule that very art and bring in THE OPPOSITE style (the nazi, pure Germanic stuff) in order to what ? just to confuse the public ?

what would the purpose of that be ?

6/18/2009 3:55 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Kev, that is a fascinating quote by NC Wyeth about his meeting with Marcel Duchamp. Where did you read it? Is anything else known about their meeting?

6/18/2009 9:54 AM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>>See if this smacks of political conspiracy: 21st April 1916, ". I got into a genuine nest of post impressionist of the rankist [sic] kind. Duchamp - the-nude-descending-the-staircase man, and all the other nuts. I've kept my mind entirely open to this movement and have struggled to derive some benefit, and if possible to sympathize with their viewpoint. I spent a night at one of their clubs on Madison Ave. Enough! They are entirely without aim or principle - a motley lot of charlatans, most of them, with no head nor tail to their endeavors unless it is to be different - goddamn the word. I worship individuality, but one can't manufacture it!!"<<<

Hmm, yes, I suppose it is all cleverly manufatured public relations that is keeping so many of the assembled artists from getting their just recognition. However, the one thing that was apparent to me in reading this was that, unlike the assembled conspiracy theorists, N.C. Wyeth was a towering figure in American illustration with a reputation large enough to be invited into this inner snactum of the modernists. N.C. had firsthand knowledge as oppsed to the sort of reality the Internet manufacturers. He arrived at his own opinions and never once was seen to Google or Wikipedia a reference...earlier I made the observation of the tipsy man leaning on the lamp post, less for illumination but more for support...the unoriginal use of quotations is such a cry for support rather than illumination.

So, from your rubbing shoulders with the big name fakers of this generation, and from your position on the hill overlooking what should, by rights, be your artistic domain, what are your observations? Where has it gone wrong? What can be done to right it and what are you personally doing about it.

For myself, I haven't been around those heavy-hitters for decades so I can't comment on what they think (if they are even alive). However, I did get a chance to meet a few of them...about 100% more than all of the opinion-flingers online. Still, I did not come to the same conclusions that N.C. did. Also, I see the deep level of mediocrity in all art today and, frankly I see no easy and humane solution. Obviously, developing better craftsmanship has not resulted in any advances in Art.

I dunno, Kev. Perhaps a return to The Faith of Our Fathers? I rather doubt that or we would have seen examples coming from the faithful. Perhaps more roughage in the diet? The reality is that most of the eras of mankind and his art have been eras of unrelenting mediocrity and lack of originality. What many do not want to admit is that the early part of the 20th century was a high point and we're angry because we can't recapture it and, thus, have to do the thing that little people do when they are confronted by bigger folk...dig a hole and throw them in it. Thus, because N.C. Wyteh did not understand Duchamp (I suspect there were many things he didn't understand) he is quoted as the ultimate proof of...well, what, Kev? Just what caused you to resurrect him from his resting place on the railroad tracks? What was it that you hoped to prove...why you are not getting the success that those "charlatans" got? That you're not getting the money? Well join every other envious little man who can't figure it out.

Here's a little tip to throw into your survival kit...there was a large study of people who were placed in life threatening situations...cast adrift at sea, trapped in a mine, etc. Without exception, the first to succumb were those who blame others. Those who instantly accept where they were (rather than who was to blame for being there) were the ones who adapted to the reality and survived. Those who needed the swarm, who needed the lamp posts were the first to go under. Just a little survival skill delivered with 94.7% love.

6/18/2009 12:22 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Rob, I don't think I'll take the bait on all your BS.

FYI, you missed the point, utterly. That quote was not in reference to what I think about the modernists. (I happen to love Nude Descending a Staircase.)

The point of the quote was to show Brian that those modernists were not being controlled by some grand and devious plan, but were, by N.C. Wyeth's first hand understanding, just trying to be different/innovative in order to gain attention/be successful. This was in reference to, and counter to what we may call, the "conspiracy of the galleries".

Dave, I believe the quote is available online. It was from a letter to Sidney M. Chase. I believe the excerpt is from Betsy Wyeth's The Wyeths, which is a rare and expensive book which I don't own. There's tons of other gems in all the Pyle students letters on all sorts of topics.

kev

6/18/2009 1:00 PM  
Anonymous Brian said...

"let's say the 'elite' DID foster the 'decadent' art of the Weimar period in order to turn the people barbaric as you claim (most of the art was anti-war, anti-capitalist but let's ignore that for now). you're saying that they suddenly changed tack, deciding to ridicule that very art and bring in THE OPPOSITE style (the nazi, pure Germanic stuff) in order to what ? just to confuse the public ?

what would the purpose of that be ?"

The art wasn't just anti-war and anti-capitalist. It was also anti-traditional morality, family, church, etc., and focused on the ugly and bestial.

The purpose of all modern art is the worship of the State, and the destruction of the institutions that compete with it for control--traditional morality, independent religion, the familiy, etc. So the people who destroyed the traditional arts and labelled them decadent later praised the new art, the art that glorified the all-powerful State. This is very clear if you look at the art of China, Russia, and Nazi Germany. Its true of modernism today as well. All focused on tearing down familiar society and presenting us with a long string of "problems" and "issues" that ultimately will require the intervention fo the State into our lives to solve them all. That's why we have so much political and "issue" art, and why its well funded.

The New Realism will evolve into EXACTLY the same thing. It already has. Just look at landscape painting. Already its filled with the bogus "global warming" and "urban sprawl" issue politics that require the all-powerful State for control. It can't just be about the natural beauty. Nope. It has to be political and lead to an all-powerful centralized government.

Socialism really isn't opposed to capitalism. All the big money loves socialism. You can see this clearly if you look at the actions of the wealthiest families in the US and Europe. They have no love for capitalism. Its just a system where they can acquire tremendous wealth. Then they advocate socialism to keep those gains. You don't compete to keep competing--you compete to win and hold on to your winnings.

What we have now is a sort of oligarchical socialism like Orwell described--a coterie of immnse wealth at the top, and a system to impoverish the middle class so they can't rise up to take any of the wealth back. To make them de facto slaves again. You have to destroy your competitors.

And the means to do this is the State, because you can tax them to death, and if they resist, you've got cops, courts, and jail cells for them. Just like every third-world country around. That's where we are headed. And its not just painting, its all the arts that glorify the State.

The arts are superficial and mediocre because that's what the money wants. There is just as much talent today as there has been at any time. It simply cannot express anything worthy or profound, because the galleries will censor it and the money will ignore it.

6/18/2009 1:08 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

Brian, i understand your ideas a little more clearly now but i think you're over-estimating the amount of effect that modern art has on the public. the average joe didn't see much art in the early 20th century. he didn't have coffee table books of it the way we do. much if it hadn't been written about then.


i don't see much state-controlled propaganda in the form of modern art myself, but maybe we're looking at different work ? if it's so subtle it musn't be very strong stuff.

you really think the illuminati have got the time to sit around wondering whether the latest John Currin exhibition will advance their agenda ?


"BTW, please explain, given the gritty reality of "making a living", why it is that Sargent, Sorolla, Zorn, et al, who made their money doing portraits, did most of their greatest work just for grins, painting the life around them on their own time?"


because rich people wanted a big impressive portrait of themselves to stick over the fireplace. because they were pretty handy as portrait painters.

6/18/2009 2:13 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Brian, I'm willing to give you the benefit of the doubt on this. So maybe you can provide us with your foundation.

What books are you consulting on this? (Or websites, magazines, tracts, treatises, etc.)

Which galleries are involved? And when did they become a part of this effort?

Which artists are part of this effort and which are not? Is Arno Breker part of the Nazi effort to induce barbarism?

Which critics are involved? Clement Greenberg?

Was the WPA project part of this effort?

Who are the "sybaritic Art Lords?"

Who are the governing elites who are utilizing the gallery system to their own ends? (Names, please.)

kev

6/18/2009 3:01 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>>Rob, I don't think I'll take the bait on all your BS <<<

Yes Kev, I didn't think that you'd be able to offer any good rebuttal for your serial bloviations. Still, I love you with the depth and sincerity that you have for art.

Don't forget; the reason for your lack of success is due to others, not you. I leave you to join the rest of the swarm down at the swamp.

In the words of the philosopher, Mike Myers, "Tawk amongst yaw-selves"

6/18/2009 7:58 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

I accept your humble apology, Rob. You made an honest mistake.

6/18/2009 8:24 PM  
Anonymous bhanu pratap said...

"
I have been studying 17th and 18th century court paintings from the Rathore dynasty of Marwar and I find them absolutely breathtaking. They are so beautiful they send chills up my spine. I wish I knew more about the religion and the mythology that underlies the work of all the Jodhpur artists. Please feel free to chime in if you have anything more to contribute."

Ahh the indian miniature art ,
I like marwar/rajasthani style a lot but I have seen upclose some kangra artists(of the kangra minature style). Yes ,the surity of strokes the, innocence in portrayol of the age old mythologies is simply wonderful.

Well the truth is there are too many scriptures in the indian culture and mythology, very hard to gather,simply because they are all written in various languages , and many still havent been translated, some languages have died off and some are dying.
I will try to put something useful if I can, in here.

Anyways, I think humans have always tried to give shape to the eternal, especially through religion , by making images of gods, death and what not.
Artists are not a different race.
And i dont like words like 'profound' and phrases like 'refined taste'. Every goddamed person will assume that him and his ilk are profund and have refined taste, same goes for people who think damien hirst is the shit as well as the people cling to normmal rockwell.
I say , to each his own.
Hmmmm....long post for my liking hehehe.
Anyways I will try to find some good hindu illustrations along with some shlokas or something.

Take care guys.

6/19/2009 1:20 AM  
Blogger Yung Kee Hui said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6/19/2009 11:51 AM  
Anonymous Brian said...

Kev and Laurence

Am I supposed to draw ups some huge list of data, and post it on all on blogspot for your benefit? Why don't you consider a different point of view? Because its not yours? Why should I have to teach a history course to you because you are grossly ignorant of it? Do you think you really run anything or do other people shape your world and you adapt to it? Holy crap are you two naive!

You know what, if you want to see how the robber barons of Europe and the US control the arts, media, and education, maybe you should do a little research into the Rockefellers, Mellons, Morgans, Vanderbuilts, Carnegies, the MacArthurs, the Sloanes, the Guggenheims, Thyssens, Schiffs, Warburgs, etc. and see how their money has been used to to fund the Soviet Union, the Nazis, Red China, and socialism in Europe and the US.

You can start with Anthony Sutton's "Wall Street and Bolshevik Revolution" and "Wall Street and the Rise of Hitler". You could also read Rene Wormser's "Foundations: Their Power and Influence". You could also research the promotion of modernism by these families (Rockefellers & Guggenheims to start).

But you won't do that because you are lazy and think that you know everything already. Thanks for not addressing my point. I'll remember to give your comments the same consideration.

Rob Howard continues his assault on other people who disagree with his views by saying they have no money. If only they could copy photos into large oil paintings, they would be happy! And smart! Add that to the the P.T Barnum throng above and its time to boogie.

Bye

6/19/2009 12:44 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>>If only they could copy photos into large oil paintings, they would be happy! And smart! <<<

Darn, that lets me out. I paint little pictures and even worse, have been largely working without photos for years, either from my sitters (still got to make the filthy lucre, don'cha know) or in my own work, painting figures from imagination. In fact, I am working on a video that will show exactly that...just a boy and his pencil and brush, no photos, no models...just the camera focused on the hand and the work, in what used to be a standard skill for illustrators.

Too bad that you have moral issues with money. It's kinda like having moral issues with retractable ball pens or wooden spoons...inappropriate and neurotic.

As you so eloquently said...bye.

6/20/2009 7:19 AM  
Anonymous Hilton K. said...

Mr. Howard, your manner is utterly unbearable.

6/20/2009 1:52 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>>Mr. Howard, your manner is utterly unbearable.<<<

That's my charm.

I have been banned from the bourgeoisie (or as Mencken would have it..."the booboisie") for life. Doubtless, you would have found Mencken, Shaw, Wilde, Whistler and countless other merchants in the bon mot equally unbearable.

Sorry, Hilton, but tongue clucking lost it's effect on me in the third grade. Curious that you'd think it would work rather than an application of wit or sound reason.

6/20/2009 6:26 PM  
Blogger Matthew Adams said...

Rob, your declarations of being banned from the boobiosie, while at the same time boasting about your comfortable existance living in a house by a lake and playing tennis on your own tennis court is a bit confusing for those of us with clearly less intellect. No doubt you can explain this in easy to understand words, and no doubt we will continue in not understanding.

What this has to do with infinity in art I don't know, except maybe tackling the concept of infinity while living easy comfortable lives focused on the now will always be problamatic (that easy comfortable lives applies to almost every boobiosie who comments on this blog, including Rob).

I have to admit, I have always been a boobiosie man myself. The bigger the boobiosie, the more willing to sell my soul I am.

6/20/2009 9:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tongue Cluckers have no wit. Good for you, Rob, for telling it like you see it. Some of us out here in Anonymousville understand.

6/20/2009 11:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The post just above this one was written by Rob Howard. Pathetic, isn't he?

6/21/2009 9:53 AM  
Anonymous Hilton K. said...

Bon mots? Do you actually think we are entertained by your endless self regarding prattle? The only talent you display on this blog is the ability to destroy our enjoyment of it. You are an utterly negative presence.

6/21/2009 10:05 AM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>>What this has to do with infinity in art I don't know,<<<

And what art has to do with infinity is beyond my ken. As David and I earlier concurred, the subject of infinity is infinitely puerile...the sort of subject one abandons when wiping the last of the pablum from their mouths. Definite kid stuff and not worthy of being brought into a blog devoted to the very grown-up art of illustration.

I'm pleased that you describe yourself as appreciating the booboisies. I'm a legoisie man, myself.

As for the comfort which I enjoy...just the luck of the Irish, I guess. Hey wait, I don't have any Irish blood in me so I have to attibute it to the same unjust and malevolent forces in the art world who reward the fakers and keep the real, honest, dedicated, loving and sincere artists huddled together on the periphery, trying to keep warm around an infinite fire stoked with complaints about lack of success and seasoned with schoolboy snarky cliche.

6/21/2009 11:48 AM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>>Do you actually think WE are entertained by your endless self regarding prattle? The only talent you display on this blog is the ability to destroy our enjoyment of it. You are an utterly negative presence.<<<

I assumed that you are either the Royal WE or are in close communications with the Anonymous Network and have been anonymously elected as their spokesman because you come as close as they could muster to a silver-tongued orator.Must be a paucity of silver-tongued orators out there in the fever swamps.

I don't know whether to be amused, bemused or honored that you think of me as the Internet's version of the Death Star...or even more in keeping with your foam-flecked prose...some sort of interstellar dark force that sucks all of the unoriginal thoughts and cliches out of the online galaxy, compessing them into an impossibly dense matter of impossibly dense minds.

Heavens forfend that such celestial powers should ever fall into the hands of someone like me.

Now for a little Reality Sandwich for all of you...many of you know my curriculum vitae and how I have taken time away from a lurative career in illustration to teach, write books on the subject, create one of the first art fora on the Internet (CompuServe's Artist Forum had 62,000 PAYING members--I've always had a gift for making money), wrote several books to share information not taught in schools, created instructional DVDs on the subject of art technique and created new ways of instilling real working skills in aspiring artists...all because, one day as i was railing about the sorry state of art education, my wife said..."put your money where your mouth is." I did.

What have you and the assembled whiners and complainers done for other artists besides the very negative downers that I routinely read...downers designed to excuse your lack of success, your lack of activity and, damned sure, your lack of freely giving to upcoming generations of artists? What have you done? Give me a list that i can respect.

Your smugness and arrogance are rooted firmly in self-regarding fantasies. Sure, there is a very, very small percentage of the membership here who can actually walk the walk when it comes to illustration, but past earning a living, what have you done for others?

So I will repeat my wife's challenge to you..."put your money where your mouths are." What have you done to advance the cause besides peripheral quasi-philosophical maundering? Until you demonstrate that you are worthy of respect, don't be such a fool as to demand it. Until then, you're just fans.

6/21/2009 12:15 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>>Anonymous said...
The post just above this one was written by Rob Howard. Pathetic, isn't he?
<<<

How can you be so consistently wrong? Sorry, it wasn't me. You'll have to do better than that because the one thing I am not, is afraid to make my points under my own rubric.

6/21/2009 12:20 PM  
Anonymous Hilton K. said...

Nobody here cares about your claims of success and importance. Can't you understand that? This isn't your performance space. All we see is what you do here.. Continually making personal comments about those who hold differing views than you. And, then, like the earlier poster said, you defend your "right to insult" by claims of great success and Impotance. It's crazy! Well, I'm happy for your success, but unless you plan on paying us to stay quiet as you give offense, it is irrelevant.

I've gone back and read some of the earlier posts on this blog, and there was nothing like the kind of rancor you have caused. Is there a reason that you feel that no one should be able to enjoy this blog discussion but you?
And the "royal we" is a lot better than the "royal you!"

6/21/2009 6:54 PM  
Anonymous Big Old Fat Snob Howard said...

"Now for a little Reality Sandwich for all of you...many of you know my curriculum vitae and how I have taken time away from a lurative career in illustration to teach, write books on the subject, create one of the first art fora on the Internet (CompuServe's Artist Forum had 62,000 PAYING members--I've always had a gift for making money), wrote several books to share information not taught in schools, created instructional DVDs on the subject of art technique and created new ways of instilling real working skills in aspiring artists...all because, one day as i was railing about the sorry state of art education, my wife said..."put your money where your mouth is.""

I've never seen one of your courses, DVD's, or books on any bookshelf anywhere. I've never heard anybody recommend them to me or anybody else. I've never seen any of your work in any major exhibitions, or in any major galleries, or in any museums. I've never seen one painting of yours that I like. I've never seen any student of yours that is well-known, and I'd be shocked if their work was anything other than enlarged photography, just like your own. I've never seen any of your illustration work either. And nobody I've ever heard of collects it, so they think its pretty worthless as well. As far as I'm concerned you are an art nobody. Outside of this little blog and the Cennini forum, you are a nobody.

Nobody but you or your immediate family cares who much money you make. Nobody. You constantly talk about how much you've done and given, but all I hear about is how much money you've made, and how much you've gotten.

You are a hack. Thomas Kinkade is a hack. Pino is a hack. That goofball who does the Blue Dog paintings is a hack. They make a lot of dough too, but they are hacks and their hackery destroys the field.

You are rude, amazingly ignorant about history, fat, old, and running out of time to do great painting, though nobody here, including me, thinks you are capable of any.

I addition, you are boring. Not just a little boring, but REEEAALLLLY BORING! And you've also managed to drive away many people from this blog, the Cennini Forum, and any other venue with your insufferable egoism, mediocrity, and blandness.

I hope that you choke on one of the thousands of doughnuts and candy bars you routinely shove down your bloated piehole and do the rest of us a favor. Maybe then this and other places on the web will be more than the Rob Howard echo chamber.

6/21/2009 7:05 PM  
Anonymous The Biggest Throbbing Red Rob Howard Fan Ever! said...

Rob,

I think this blog is too small for a man of your fantastic talent and intellect. It limits you, confines you, and reduces you to a mere shadow of your true brilliance.

Why do you hang around here with the other dolts? Shouldn't we have far more of your infinite wit and wisdom on your own blogsite?

There you could stretch out, show the middling throng a few photos of your current work, and offer your numerous teaching aids that you so grandly have offered to the poorly-trained wannabees out there.

Why do you continue to put up with such limitations and abuse when you could be at the forefront, where you properly belong?

6/21/2009 7:16 PM  
Anonymous Lukisan Minimalis said...

aaahh infinity, well very interesting. I suppose that I gave the impression that I was a fan

6/22/2009 2:53 PM  

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