... Monkey Walk ... " ( circa 1973 )
"Today, as you know, I am famous and very rich . But when I am
alone with myself, I haven't the courage to consider myself an artist, in the great and ancient sense of that word ... I am
only a public entertainer, who understands his age."
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
from "The Trousered Ape"
Duncan Williams, 1971
"Poets ... philosophers, painters, sculptors and musicians are, in one
sense, the creators, and, in another, the creations of their age."
Percy Bysshe Shelly (1792-1822)
from the Preface to "Prometheus
"True art, art that comes from the center of a people, from their very
core, is inherently political. The stuff you see on Sixth Avenue in New York is dead art, art that the patriarchy wants to
buy, a terrible self-indulgence and insidious."
from Linda Bellows interview
"Spare Rib", August, 1982
"All great art ... creates in the beholder not self-satisfaction but
wonder and awe. It's great liberation is to lift us out of ourselves"
Dorothy Thompson (1894-1961)
from "The Twelve-foot Ceiling",
The Courage to Be Happy, 1957
"No one has ever written or painted, sculpted, modeled, built, invented,
except to get out of hell."
Antonin Artaud (1896-1948)
from "Van Gogh: The Man Suicided
by Society", 1947,
Antonin Artaud Anthology, ed.
Jack Hirschman, 1965
ART AS A SOCIAL CONSTRUCT
"Monk Studying" 1885
THE ACADEMIC ART OF PAST CENTURIES has
left Western culture an astounding legacy of aesthetic wonders. With the encroach-ment of various "Modernist"
move-ments throughout most of the 20th century, that legacy had all but disap-peared. But for the struggling and epi-sodic
successes of misanthropic move-ments like the Sym-bolists or the Sur-realists, followed by "American
Realists" and the various sub-strata of the great American illustrators, basic "Art 101" principles were barely kept
THE HISTORY OF ART has instructed us, if nothing
else, that all art is held hostage by a social construct. The social nature of art; the social forces that
play into any "movement", are forces that students of art must com-prehend before they can claim to be knowledgeable
This holds especially true today, considering
the wall of noise a student or collector must face before he/she gets serious about art, for there is one more salient
fact about today's art world that few in academia will own .
Today, in the first decade of the 21st
century, at the very threshold of the third Millennium, art has essentially been reduced to :
The quixotic behaviour of the "Minimalists"
within our culture's recent memory up to today's "Neo-Concep-tualists" has bequeathed upon our collective neuro-template a
distinct impression that anyone can "do" art.
I would like to suggest what the above
mind-set is really saying to us : 1) Either the "Neos"can "do" art or, 2) No one can "do" art.
But today's truly talented artists
know that real art, or say the least, great art, takes not only skill and talent, but equally important, time and labor. They
also realize that art based on the time honored basic principles of cen-turies past remains the legitimate
and indispensable template that puts the lie to charlatans who claim to be artists.
"In the Dew" 1876
FOR THE BETTER PART OF THE
20th CENTURY, art principles such as perspective,
com-position and balance (or "The Rule of Golden Sec-tion" ) and chiaroscuro, time honored
by art-ists since the Renais-sance, were scoffed at and abandoned by the purveyers of taste who pushed
the envelope of hubris into uncharted extremes : old is bad; dif-ferent is good.
After all, it was "art scholars"
(an oxy-moron) of the early 20th century who said this was so.
And the public listened.
And when the public listened, too many
artists, whether or not they wished to, followed suit.
Not since the early Rennaisance, when artists
were held hostage by the Church, had artists been held hostage by so fickle a patron as the public.
By the end of the 19th century, talented,
academically trained artists were told if they didn't sell out to the prevailing winds, their art would die a slow death;
and in fact their art was consigned to a painful obsolescence, buried in the deep and publically inaccessible base-ments of
the world's great academies and museums.
The new mass assembly public wanted
mass assembly art. The artists obliged. The public had become too naive to realize that, in place of art, the artists handed
down to posterity the only spirit they had left for the public :
The spirit of contempt.
Never was that contempt so
self-evident as in the new Picasso phenomena called "Cubism" (a "movement" which late in the game even Picasso himself once
professed privately to his daughter was "a joke") ... or Dali, constructing his sculpture with his own excrement
( or so he stated once in a talk show interview, who knows?!!... perhaps a DNA test would be in order ! ) ...
or empty "Minimalist" canvases ( empty, as in no art ) ... or "Jack the Dripper" himself , "painting energy"
by slinging oil (and, no doubt, alcohol ) onto his canvases ... and if all that's not enough contempt for
you, try some of the "constructs" of today's art circus.
How about if I paste my first cell phone
to an empty canvas ? Or my first Nikon ?
You buying ?
(Well, my friends would probably buy
into the Nikon idea, but if I told them that pasting my Nikon to an empty can-vas was a work of art, they'd take
the Nikon in gratitude, then rush me off to the "quiet place" of my dreams and I wouldn't expect any less of them.)
"Nitza"... ( circa 1971)
"Mrs. Ogilvy" 1896
"Free "... ( circa 1976 )
"The Enchantress" 1837
"Child of Summer Town"... ( c.1975 )
"End of the Row" 1905
THE MAJORITY OF POSTMODERN
"neos" who would like to think of themselves as progressive movements or indepen-dent "schools"
are really not new; they are in fact the heirs of an early 20th century form of fatalism, the practitioners of which
preached, when you can't do art, fudge it.
CAME to all this began...
When? Well, one will argue that "Modernism" began with the steam engine, but this
doesn't mean you have to be a Luddite to love the academic art of centuries past. What fueled the wholesale rejection
of academic art was not steam, but the self-appointed "experts" ... and naive albeit wealthy patrons of Paris/
London and New York who bedded down with a new mythological muse.
AND SHE HAD A NAME.
The new muse had a name, although hidden
from most. Her name was Caprice, and She's been peddling Her wares since the end of Belle Epoque. Academic art was finished;
old out, Caprice, in ... and the deal wasn't even struck behind a closed door or smoke filled room.
She was not beautiful. Beauty collects dust. Imagine a steamroller.
That was Lady Caprice.
WHAT DO WE DO ? Can't sue anybody; the chief culprits have passed. I didn't say my oily rag
at the Guggenheim was art, I just said it was "original". Any wealthy attorney ( a very wealthy attorney ) out here
in cyberspace who wants to entertain a class action suit against the Guggen-heim and MOMA and et. al. for chronic, massive
fraud on the public, then have at it, my friend, and may Chagall's sweet bluebirds of happi-ness be with you.
IN MY DAYS OF YOUTH,
I was called an artist and lauded with many awards to that ef-fect, and
I was lucky enough to know, very early on, that it's best not to wear that crown until someone in the trade,
someone who really knows art, takes that leap and calls you an artist. That is really the greatest compliment anyone
can pay, with or without awards.
"Siren of Paris" 1908
ONE TIME, IN THE
EARLY 90's, a new client and his wife approached our
booth at an antique show to com-plete a deal over a small oil painting of a beautiful Hispanic lady from 1900. As he
and his wife left the booth, the husband turned to me and said :
"We only want real art."
They were not at all trained in art, but they were not naive; they were
both professional business leaders in their community.
And I knew precisely what they meant.
That one seemingly naive decla-ration encapsulated what I had already
long been suspecting : there was a real hunger out there for the art of the past, the "real" academic art ( not neces-sarily
just narrative or represen-tational )...but the academic art which spoke to people and didn't talk down to them.
That is what we sell.
That is our opinion,
And we welcome yours.
SPECIFIC ARTISTS / TITLES, OR CLICK LINKS BELOW FOR SINGLE CATEGORIES :
"Woods Near the Hague" 1867
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