Modernism and Hockney

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Modernism and Hockney

From Brian K. Yoder

Published before 2005


Nice response. There were a couple of additional points I would recommend when dealing with this kind of person ...

1. Not only do the modernists suppress the work of anti-modernists, but they make it a crime not to support their stuff (through taxation) and when ever anyone objects to the involuntary funding they are denounced as a bunch of art-hating Nazis (more or less as he just did). Who is forcing their artistic vision on whom here?

2. An interesting thing about this guy's point of view is that he's not really disagreeing on the question of whether the modernists were really bad (though he didn't really agree either), but he was saying that even if they are bad it's bad to criticize, ignore, or devalue them because they (somehow) deserve to keep whatever popular renown they have managed to garner. Isn't that strange? Most people would argue that they aren't bad and therefore deserve to be treated with respect, but not this guy. To carry on his nazi metaphor, that's like agreeing that the Jews and gypsies were evil monsters but arguing against the Nazis doing anything about it rather than taking the position that genuinely guilty people deserve jail and sometimes even death but that these people had done nothing to deserve such treatment.

3. Regarding the virtue of being "open-minded" I think he has the shoe on the wrong foot. Our view is much more open-minded than his in the sense that depending on what we see in a work of art, we might find it great, mediocre, poor, or god awful. That's an open-minded approach where the conclusion is based on the facts of a particular case rather than some foregone conclusion. His view is that someone who is "open-minded" must always pronounce a positive judgment on supposed examples of art no matter what their particular qualities are, and no matter whether they are in fact good or bad. That's a completely closed mind (closed to the possibility of discovering that anything is bad), don't you think?

4. On the issue of whether "outrage" against modernism is appropriate or not, it is interesting that those who disagree with us on the topic of whether modernism is bad or not are always incredibly outraged (though this guy at least kept his cool to some extent) but they make arguments that condemn outrage in general as a bad thing no matter whether justified or not. Isn't that a little strange? As I see it, this is a social mechanism that the modernists have developed to protect themselves from criticism. The one rule about criticism is that nobody can be critical of anyone else. If they are, they are to be denounced from the rooftops. You can see the same thing among criminals where there's no crime worse than "snitching" and everyone covers for the criminal behavior of everyone else.

5. In several places David implies that the modernists are advocates of "freedom", "expression", "experimentation", and so on. They no doubt do pay lip service to such things, but what they mean by these things is in no way liberating. Taking away an artist's best tools is not liberating, it's the most confining thing you can do to him. We would not say that taking away a scientist's microscope, a pilot's airplane, or a surgeon's scalpel "liberates" them, so why say the same when modernists have done this to artists?

--Brian