Revolt against academia

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Revolt against academia

From Jeffery LeMieux

Published before 2005


Not to do the student's work, but I'd be looking at the Dahesh Museum for something current. They exist in the New York art world as standard bearers of 19th century academic art and probably have some good publications to offer, maybe even call them up and ask for some advice about where to look.

About modernism and objective standards, I think modernism suffers from their misguided attempt to COMPLETELY objectify art in a rigorous 20th century philosophical manner. Modernism is an attempt to "purify" art by removing from it everything non-essential. Most modern art is experimental, and the method by which it operates is to remove one element of art and see if the resulting object can still be considered art. Duchamp started (and finished) that argument long ago, most of the "exploration" of the 20th century was simply restating Duchamp's conclusion.

The way to be perfectly objective is to assume nothing. Of course when you assume nothing, you are necessarily led to conclude that nothing exists, thus modernism. Further, if you subscribe to a definitional essentialism, you are led to power as the only reality, thus everything becomes a "mask" for power. The only way to preserve the integrity and humanity of art is to give up the arrogant quest for power and start with a foundational belief in the goodness of existence. Then it makes sense to move toward beauty, truth and wisdom; those traditional standbys.

The history of Art is the ongoing discussion about what wisdom looks like.

And the academy is not as corrupt as some would have us believe. I agree that much of modern "art" is chicanery and an academic con job, but there are good and sincere people, talented people doing good work everywhere. You just have to look. About our age producing generations of artists with "no skills, no ideas, and can't make art," I'd say that art will always be made no matter who runs the schools, but it won't always be seen. And some might suggest that generations of well-trained craftsmen producing heaps of the same tired old formulaic approach to art are why the academy was rejected in the first place. This is simply not a one-sided argument on either side.

There is a time approaching when the ideas of the modernist academy will be challenged using those same corrupt ideas against them. But the academy will not go back, it must move forward. We can never be the 19th century, and we ought to aspire to surpassing it.

Jeffery