The Desolation of Art in the Late 20th and Early 21st Centuries

Feb 2019
Pennsylvania, US
Certainly, one's taste developpes and ripens with time and as you learn more about new things. Due to my studies I have read a lot of German and a bit of Russian literature. I can now appreciate expressionists, while in high school I didn't really think that highly of them. Back then romanticism was my favourite literary period. Then having read and dealt a lot with sentimentalist and romanticist literature, well, at one point it gets a bit pathetic and predictable ... I'll probably never like dadaism, even though I performed a major dadaistic work quite a few times myself. I've read postmodernist works but I don't like them. Same with chromatic music, I can't develop a taste for it while I have no problem with listening to traditional Istrian music, which uses a scale different to the typical Western scale and doesn't sound pleasent the first few times, if you're not familiar with it.
In the end I think dealing too much with any period or style eventuelly gets boring. I see that with my taste in music. It changes every few years, when I grow sick of the previous thing and have to find something new - comparable, yet different. Some things never change though.

And I'm not saying my worldview is the only correct one. In my country we say "each pair of eyes have their own painter", meaning as much as beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I still call BS on a lot of what is being sold as art today though.

Are the French impressionist paintings of drunk alcoholic people in bars not beautiful? Is Goya's Saturn Devouring His Son beautifully disturbing or disturbingly beautiful?
You performed a piece of Dadaistic work? Was it a musical piece? Don't tell me you did some performance art! I always find performance art disconcerting to watch, but it seems like it's really fulfilling to those who use it as a "medium" - I have a friend who does a lot of performance art and he loves it.

Since the advent of the "genius" in art - the "Leonardo"s of the world who elevated the role of the artist into a sort of cultural catalyst or intellectual acuity - the role of art changed. Suddenly the ultimate goal of art was not just to produce work that could make you a living (though it's nice) but also to advance the artist's own personal expression/vision. Art for the sake of commerce was seen as uncouth. There was such a dichotomy between "illustrators" and "artists" in the past 100+ years in the US, that you'd have brilliant artists being despised by their peers for creating images for publications... they would even have separate schools, because illustrators would be rejected from the fine art academies... and an artist branded as an "illustrator" would no longer be allowed to teach fine art. So the intentions of art were being highly scrutinized for authenticity... and with movements like "l'art pour l'art", people were freeing their mode of expression from interference of moralizing or patronizing sentiment - and even later when modern artists concluded that the creation of art was just as important as the work of art itself... the shift went even further away from "the product" as paramount. It was the creative energy and execution that held beauty - the "sublime" mental and physical processes of the artist.

Trying to define what makes something "art", I personally see art is an idea and an execution of that idea... if one of those is not of high quality, the outcome could be unaffecting. Sometimes you have someone just creating work for the sake of creating it - and their execution is so moving and beautiful that it has meaning. Sometimes you can have an very "large" idea... complex or abstruse... and the execution is not on display - you can still be moved by the thought behind it all (Duchamp's Fountain / Dadaism may fall into this category).

With artists like Goya and Van Gogh... they had some of both of these qualities. Yet they also were engaging the viewer in a purely "second party" way - it's almost a voyeuristic experience of someone else's horror or drunkenness (though the altered perspective of the Night Cafe does make you feel a little tipsy ;))... shifting the artistic elements, you can create a vision that causes the viewer to experience the horror themselves, the slanted reality themselves. Look at Picasso's Guernica as an example (it's a pretty easily "dealt with" piece now, as compared to when people first saw it) - the confusion, the fear, the tormented figures make you experience a deeper sensation in response. Compare that with Goya's Saturn - which affects your emotions more?

All this said, I am a terrible realism/symbolism/romanticism junkie, so I'm not sure if my arguments to validate the worth of contemporary art are the most convincing... but I try! :lol: