Baffled by modernism

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Baffled by modernism

From Steve Crespo

Published before 2005


I want to thank you for your site. I just discovered it about a week ago, and I have been addicted ever since.

I have read a few of your articles and I found myself agreeing with every point made. In fact, I have been saying similar things for years, so it was truly astonishing to find so many like minded people in one place.

I am an illustrator who is looking to expand his abilities. For many years now I have been both amazed and heavily influenced by the works of Waterhouse, Bouguereau, Alma-Tadema, Mucha, and many, many others. And for the life of me I could never understand nor appreciate modern art. In fact, I have always equated it as a scam, and these modern 'artists' as con men.

A few incidents in my life came to mind while reading through your articles.

In 1980, my dad, who is no great lover of art, took me to the Guggenheim Museum for an enrollment test I had to finish for entry to a specialized art high school. I remember walking through the museum looking at the pieces on display, and being completely baffled. One piece was a huge brown canvas with a diagonal slice running through it. Another was three canvases lined side to side: one blue, one red, and one yellow. The piece was titled Blue, Red and Yellow.

My father was silent on it, but I remember leaving the museum angry, even at that young age. I didn't know why, but I felt I was taken for a fool.

Years later, a good friend of mine who decided after years of major-hopping at Harvard to become an 'artist' showed me his 'work' one day. I remember not knowing what to say as I stared at scraps of xeroxes and a handful of tiny plastic babies. (The kind you buy in a gum ball machine.) suspended in clear plastic. "What does it mean?" was all I could think to say. "What do you think it means?" was his answer.

All I could figure it meant was that he had way too much time on his hands and he had some extra tiny plastic babies laying around.

Years after that I was looking at another friend's work which consisted of painting over the most explicit pornographic images that had been cut from magazines and decoupaged onto everything from canvas to turtle shells. In fact, there was one piece which was a turtle shell with a photo of a huge anus glued to it, along with some human hair, and painted over.

"What do you think?" he asked. After wracking my brain, all I could say was, "I like that orange you used."

Which was true. It was a nice orange.

Just the other day, I was speaking with some co-workers about another co-workers 'art'. They admired this guy as a serious artist who refuses to compromise his work, but a little web search unveiled that his 'art' is nothing but a sham. Here is what I found: "The notion of the body as sculpture plays an important part in ----- -----'s installation. Visitors were invited to lie on a horizontal platform, which slid mechanically from the inside to the outside of the building. This experience played on an intrinsic sense of vulnerability, through moving head and shoulders out of a second floor window, at the same time enhancing awareness of location in architectural space."

This is simply garbage. A person laying down is sculpture? If so, I've got a great work of art right here. I call it Guy writing a letter on a computer. And yes, a machine sliding you in and out of a window would tend to increase one's "intrinsic sense of vulnerability", but so would tripping people down a flight of stairs. Hmm,? that's an idea. Maybe I can get a grant.

You can bet in this new installation, which I think I will call Whoops!, the viewer would have a super-heightened "awareness of location in architectural space" as well, since it would be rushing up to meet them at about 50 miles an hour.

Anyhow, I said this guy's work was a con, and my co-workers became silent and walked away. Oh well. Over the years my views became more and more solidified. This type of work is not a work at all. It is a product of a group of people who want to be held as significant, yet who have little or no talent. It seems to be that if you call it 'art' it has to be taken seriously, and that it means something profound by default. Even strippers are using these terms which is not surprising in a morally bankrupt and intellectually lazy society.

There was once a time when people would give themselves to their work, and literally spend a lifetime perfecting it. These people were at times sought after by kings and rulers, they traveled in the upper tiers of society, they were celebrated and rightfully so. Some never reached this in life, but after they had gone they were discovered and hailed as geniuses, their works sought after by the rich and admired by all.

It seems with modern art, we have a group that wants that admiration, that status, but lack the skills. They wanted that position, so instead of living a life of study and discipline, they have sought a more deconstructive method. They have not raised themselves on to the stage, but lowered the stage to them.

I have seen people stand around in awe gazing at dismembered Barbie dolls nailed to a wall, each attempting to have a life changing experience, and all the while I am amazed at how shallow it all is.

But in any case, thank you so much for your site. You are speaking the things I have been thinking for a very long time now.

God bless you.