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Why is Modern Art so Bad?

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Dream,

If you assigned the same subject, theme or still life object to Derain, Sargent or Tiepolo the "dabbing of dots" would be all that would separate them.  All were Masters, not in spite of their "brush strokes" but because of them.  

Analogous to the viewer's perspective, or in this case, the specific vantage point,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J_IACmVfP60

The arrangement of the materials here (again, the how, or the brush techniques) vs., the view thru the viewing portal (the content).

 

I don't know if the "portrait" at the beginning of the clip (again, I'm equating with the content) is supposed to be a replica of another work of art, but the focus on the arrangement of the materials (the "brushstrokes"), I think are somehow looking thru the "wrong end of the telescope" with respect to the selective recreation of reality (which I'm equating with the content.)

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But how the "content" is conveyed cannot be separated from the "how" it is conveyed.  Changing mediums, think about how you react differently to these to pieces of The Rite of Spring, by Stravinsky:

 

Two Pianos

 

Orchestra

 

They are essentially the same piece, but scored differently.  The scoring has a huge impact on the listener.  This is not to say that one is better than another, but it is to illustrate that the different way that an artist can present the same theme is dramatically affected by the technique and affects your response.

 

Anyone could paint by numbers John Singer Sargent's Lady Agnew, but it is the consummate skill of the artist that breaths life into the painting.  This skill, which takes years to master, cannot be brushed aside as not relevant to how the theme or subject of the work is depicted. 

Edited by New Buddha

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Consider your response noted.

Interestingly enough, you selected the one field of art that Rand indicated that the evoked emotional response is different.

 

In part, a question I hear being asked is to what can objectivity can be applied. Rand responded that objectivity is applicable to Art. I think she is correct, although I cannot fully grasp it for myself at this time.

 

Being partial to piano, as having been a practitioner myself, I find the discord in both works noticeable, but easier to deal with (sounds better) in the piano rendition (at least in the first 13 minutes).

 

When one deals with words, Rand wrote that one is dealing with the human mind. When one deals with paintings or sculpture, one is dealing via the visual, and in the case of sculpture arguably the tactile. These use the visual or conceptual imagery to conjure the emotive response. When one deals with music, Rand's claim is that it strikes the emotions first, conjuring the visual imagery from the emotive resonance.

 

Ironically, to me, when you state that "This is not to say that one is better than" [the other], it comes across as hearing that the brush stokes (piano vs. orchestra] don't change the content.(melody).

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"When one deals with words, Rand wrote that one is dealing with the human mind."

 

I don't currently own a copy of The Romantic Manifesto, but Rand very much understood (and said as much) that choosing the "right" word was important aesthetically  to conveying intent.  This can be most easily observed in the names she assigned to her villains:  Thooey, Mooch, Boyle; and to her hero's: Galt, Roark, Reardon.  Weak names vs. strong names (aesthetically speaking).

 

English is a wonderful blend of the "abstract" Latinate and the "earthy" Germanic languages.  Your position is that the "tone" of the words are irrelevant to the "intent" being conveyed by the artist, i.e. that the sounds of the names are purely arbitrary, and cannot possibly convey any additional, non-verbal, meaning - any more than can a painter's brushstrokes convey additional meaning to the subject or theme of his paintings.

 

"Ironically, to me, when you state that "This is not to say that one is better than" [the other], it comes across as hearing that the brush stokes (piano vs. orchestra] don't change the content.(melody)."

 

No.  Each performance has to be judged independently.  I have multiple recordings of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring for orchestra, but I prefer one (Claudio Abbado's) over the others.  But, per your view of aesthetics, all of them are equally good/bad based solely on the "intent" of the composer.  The performance/interpretation by the conductor is irrelevant.  If you read, somewhere in a book, about Stravinsky's "intent" for his work, you would fully pass judgement on it without even being bothered to actually listen to it....

 

" When one deals with music, Rand's claim is that it strikes the emotions first, conjuring the visual imagery from the emotive resonance."

 

All arts are the same.

Edited by New Buddha

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I would agree that each performance gets judged independently. I think there are different elements or axis' along which they may be evaluated, in addition to being judged as a whole.

 

Your indication of the "tone" of the word being irrelevant to the "intent" is close to something I'm trying to tease out better here. To put it back with 'brushwork' and 'content', with a better appreciation for the 'brushwork' now, There may be many different ways to word a message, and still be able to convey the intent,

 

You may want twelve oval shaped white things that come out of laying chickens, but if you ask for a loaf of bread, your not likely to be handed a dozen eggs.

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Regarding brushwork, I made a couple of doodles to illustrate.

 

Do these speheres have the same visual impact? Nevermind that they are quick and sloppy, they are close enough that the brushwork is the one major difference:'

55ezrs.jpg

 

 

And which one of these greys has the more visual interest? Both of them are mid-value, neutral greys.

ao4b9i.jpg

 

I'd say theres quite a difference even in these very simple and crude examples. The difference then, when a master artist makes good use of his brushwork... A comparison that springs to mind is Zorn's and Sargent's portraits of Isabella Stewart Gardner.

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I'll admit, I'm out of my league on this topic, and it's showing.

 

The original presentation spoke embracing good art, while shunning the bad.

 

The presenter himself essentially holds that true objectivity regarding aesthetics is impossible.

 

Due to the complexity of the topic, the focus seems to swing from an artwork as a whole, to the amount of weight to give any particular aspect of evaluating it. The content, or message if you will, brushwork, instrumentation in music, melody, etc. lends itself well to many tangents being raised.

 

It does seem clear that if you take particular aspects, it's easy to show contrasting concretes to highlight specific differences. To this, identifying objectivity with regard to aesthetics is a complex issue. Were it to be examined from the notion it is impossible, the conclusion would be already decided in advance. The fact that concretes can be used to compare and at least rank certain aspects in an ordinal manner, indicates to me that there are ways it can be approached.

 

 

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I like the analogy to music, not that i'm particularly educated regarding music but... well, when i'm really "in the zone" while painting or scultping I find myself thinking in musical terms.

 

That parellell also illustrates what I find wrong with the video:

 

What's wrong with modern music? Back in the good ol' days we had Mozart, Bach and Tchaikovsky. Today we have japanese noise-core and niggas rapping about bitches and money. This all started with rock music. The early adopters certainly had some merit (Led Zeppelin rocks!) but from there it's just downhill...

 

Regardless of what you think about todays music, I expect your reaction to an argument like that to be; "wait... what!?". It doesn't answer the question that's posed,, it's inaccurate and it misses the wide diversity of music today.

Edited by Alfa

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There is a lot of art that you have to sit down and think about for a while to understand its meaning, as you will probably recall from things you have read about art history or a tour you may have taken through an art museum. I would be surprised if Rand regarded this as a serious shortcoming, since that would imply a negative judgment of a lot of art. (On the other hand, she was independent enough that she would not necessarily have shied away from a conclusion like that.)

 

My point was that in Travers' presentations on art appreciation, he promotes the Randian idea that a work of art must be self-contained, and that no "outside considerations" should be required in order to understand its meaning, but then he always ends up smuggling in lots of such external content and context. In short, he doesn't seem to know if he agrees with Rand or not, and sometimes he doesn't seem to even realize that he is advocating the opposite of her position, and demonstrating the opposite of what he claims.

 

J

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Regarding brushwork, I made a couple of doodles to illustrate.

 

Do these speheres have the same visual impact? Nevermind that they are quick and sloppy, they are close enough that the brushwork is the one major difference:'

55ezrs.jpg

To me, they don't have the same impact. They each have their own aesthetic feel. They each evoke a different vibe.

 

And which one of these greys has the more visual interest? Both of them are mid-value, neutral greys.

ao4b9i.jpg

I think that a typical visual artist would say that the one on the left is more visually interesting. Artists tend to like texture, variation, modeling, stumbling, etc.

I think that Rand, on the other hand, would have preferred the one on the right. She personally, subjectively preferred the absence of the effects that visual artists like. She liked smooth, clean, pure surfaces, etc. She didn't like "painterly" effects. She didn't want to see brushwork.

 

I'd say theres quite a difference even in these very simple and crude examples. The difference then, when a master artist makes good use of his brushwork... A comparison that springs to mind is Zorn's and Sargent's portraits of Isabella Stewart Gardner.

You seem to be assuming that whichever of the samples that you like best IS the best, and that its being better is so self-evident that you don't even need to identify which you prefer! Which do you think is better?

Personally, my view is that none are universally "better," but each is contextually better at evoking different aesthetic responses in each viewer. The same would be true of a musical chord played on saxophones versus violins -- one has more "texture" and the other is "smoother," and the textured one is better at evoking certain feigns, while the smoother one is better at evoking other feelings.

J

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You had no reason to read old threads or to assume he was an artist.

Also, being an artist does not mean he's not wrong about Rand's view on art.

 

Heh. That reminds me of a previous exchange that we had in which you asserted that I was misrepresenting Rand, probably due to your not having carefully read her writings on aesthetics. You believed that you were representing what she "really said."

 

I easily demonstrated the falsehood of your position, here, and especially here. But I got no admission of error from you. Why is that?

 

And here you are once again suggesting that the natural, default assumption should be that I'm wrong about anything that I say about Rand on the issue of aesthetics.

 

What's eating you, sNerd? Why do you continue to be so upset about my accurately reporting Rand's position, when you're not interested enough in the topic of aesthetics to actually study what she wrote? Why do you have a need to believe that she held positions that she didn't?

 

J

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Regarding brushwork, I made a couple of doodles to illustrate.

 

Do these speheres have the same visual impact? Nevermind that they are quick and sloppy, they are close enough that the brushwork is the one major difference:'

 

 

And which one of these greys has the more visual interest? Both of them are mid-value, neutral greys.

 

 

I'd say theres quite a difference even in these very simple and crude examples. The difference then, when a master artist makes good use of his brushwork... A comparison that springs to mind is Zorn's and Sargent's portraits of Isabella Stewart Gardner.

Alfa,

By introducing texture to the spheres, you have drawn into their evaluation another sense modality in addition to vision - touch.  Smooth and rough textures have a different feels.  This ties into a post that Dream_Weaver made awhile back on metaphor.  Metaphor, too, is a blending of domains or modes.  This uniquely human ability to cross domains and blend sense modalities lies at the root of aesthetics. 

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To me, they don't have the same impact. They each have their own aesthetic feel. They each evoke a different vibe.

I agree, and that's the point i'm trying to make.

 

I think that a typical visual artist would say that the one on the left is more visually interesting. Artists tend to like texture, variation, modeling, stumbling, etc.

I think that Rand, on the other hand, would have preferred the one on the right. She personally, subjectively preferred the absence of the effects that visual artists like. She liked smooth, clean, pure surfaces, etc. She didn't like "painterly" effects. She didn't want to see brushwork.

I think Ayn Rand was unusual in that. My understanding is that she saw smooth renderings as somehow connected with clarity of thought. Whatever her reasons, I don't share her preference. I see them as different styles, both valid, but tend to prefer more impressionistic work (in terms of style, I tend to hold Sargent and Zorn in the highest esteem).

Now, i've never been able to figure out exactly what she liked or disliked, and I often find myself disagreeing with her comments on specific artists.

 

You seem to be assuming that whichever of the samples that you like best IS the best, and that its being better is so self-evident that you don't even need to identify which you prefer! Which do you think is better?

Personally, my view is that none are universally "better," but each is contextually better at evoking different aesthetic responses in each viewer. The same would be true of a musical chord played on saxophones versus violins -- one has more "texture" and the other is "smoother," and the textured one is better at evoking certain feigns, while the smoother one is better at evoking other feelings.

J

You misunderstand me. I'm actually in agreement with you here.

By "visual interest" I mean that there's more for the eye to process in the left samples. In certain contexts that may be better, while in others it's a bad idea. For example, you may not want the same amount of texture in foreground and background elements. Nor would you want to capture something calm and seren with a bunch of busy brushtrokes. Then, there's the matter of personal preference and style - while I find the completely flat gray painfully boring, perhaps you'll find it nice and clean.

Anyhow, my point wasn't to say that one is better than the other. It was rather to show the differences. Like Zorn's portrait of Isabella Stewart Gardner is full of energy and movement, while Sargent's is the opposite.

(As a footnote, completely beside the point I was trying to make, I must say that I really don't agree with Sargent's portrait. I can't look at it without feeling slightly ill. Maybe it's just me, really not agreeing with the choice of colors... I don't know.)

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Alfa,

By introducing texture to the spheres, you have drawn into their evaluation another sense modality in addition to vision - touch.  Smooth and rough textures have a different feels.  This ties into a post that Dream_Weaver made awhile back on metaphor.  Metaphor, too, is a blending of domains or modes.  This uniquely human ability to cross domains and blend sense modalities lies at the root of aesthetics.

That's another important aspect, altough not the only one. One truly masterful example is Vermeer's milkmaid, which is so well executed you can really feel the different materials by just looking at them.

Compositionally it's important as well. Texture and detail attracts the eye. Subtle differences in the brushwork can also lead the eye. You may notice in the milk maid that there are both blurred and sharp edges that, with other compositional elements of course, guide the eye.

Brushwork can also depict movement, energy, rhytm and flow.

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I agree, and that's the point i'm trying to make.

 

I think Ayn Rand was unusual in that. My understanding is that she saw smooth renderings as somehow connected with clarity of thought. Whatever her reasons, I don't share her preference. I see them as different styles, both valid, but tend to prefer more impressionistic work (in terms of style, I tend to hold Sargent and Zorn in the highest esteem).

Now, i've never been able to figure out exactly what she liked or disliked, and I often find myself disagreeing with her comments on specific artists.

 

You misunderstand me. I'm actually in agreement with you here.

By "visual interest" I mean that there's more for the eye to process in the left samples. In certain contexts that may be better, while in others it's a bad idea. For example, you may not want the same amount of texture in foreground and background elements. Nor would you want to capture something calm and seren with a bunch of busy brushtrokes. Then, there's the matter of personal preference and style - while I find the completely flat gray painfully boring, perhaps you'll find it nice and clean.

Anyhow, my point wasn't to say that one is better than the other. It was rather to show the differences. Like Zorn's portrait of Isabella Stewart Gardner is full of energy and movement, while Sargent's is the opposite.

(As a footnote, completely beside the point I was trying to make, I must say that I really don't agree with Sargent's portrait. I can't look at it without feeling slightly ill. Maybe it's just me, really not agreeing with the choice of colors... I don't know.)

 

Okay, thanks for clearing that up. Sorry for the misunderstanding.

 

J

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That's another important aspect, altough not the only one.

I believe that cross modality lies at the root of all art.  Without such ability, art would not be possible.

 

When I first approached design problems in college, I understood that the question is not, "What is good design", but rather, "Why are we, as humans, asking ourselves this question in the first place."  The marvel is not how well the bear dances, but that someone taught the bear to dance at all....

 

This led me to an evolutionary/biological approach to understanding aesthetics.  I encountered two ideas.  The Triune Brain and the Limbic System.  I was reading Carl Sagan's The Dragons of Eden, where he explained that once animals developed the limbic system, they were capable of "reading" minds of other animals and their young through body language/physical expression.  This was absolutely necessary for raising and nurturing their own young - something which is found in animals with the limbic system.  This led to an "empathy" approach to aesthetics - which many have written about.  The ability to "empathize" with texture, form, color, sound, smell, taste, etc., and to read emotion into inanimate objects stems from this evolutionary behavior coupled with man's unique conceptual level of cognition.  

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Here's an idea: I believe that modern art is an attempt to make art "un-human" and "scientific" and "objective", by trying to reduce art into principles of composition and visual design rather than meaningful content.  

Those same principles of design were present in past generations of art. Things like repeating rhythms throughout a piece. so modern art tried to make it as if the narrative, emotions, people etc' were not a real part of the meaning of a painting, but the shapes and colors are. They started going into this messed up view that really, the only thing that truly exists is the canvas. So it can definitely be a result of a philosophy that does not trust the mind and claims that the universe exists but that humans can't know it. 

Also, the impressionists started a new way of looking at the world which may have also led to this. Before the impressionists, the artworld focused very strictly on form. The impressionists started looking at the world as fragmented blotches of color. 

At first they were laughed at, but later gained respect (justly so, but that's another topic) and I imagine this respect opened the door to all bunch of hoo-ha's trying to make a quick buck by being an "innovative genius". Once you abandon the need for skills of drawing forms, everything goes. So.. That may have contributed also. 

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On 1/9/2016 at 5:01 PM, Ifat Glassman said:

Here's an idea: I believe that modern art is an attempt to make art "un-human" and "scientific" and "objective", by trying to reduce art into principles of composition and visual design rather than meaningful content.  

This is how it looks to me too, at least for modern art more focused on shapes and form. On the other hand, shapes are able to convey meaning depending on their positioning. But, as far as I know, a lot of abstract art always aimed at a more "pure" approach to meaning so that our subjective interpretation is pushed away. All you'd be able to use is principles of visual design, which are valid, but if it's your approach to art, it probably reflects your aims or beliefs about meaning. I really like some abstract pieces just in terms of visual balance, except it always feels... really dry in terms of -meaning-, and any analysis I am able to entertain is quite dis-interested.

The kind of pieces I'm talking about are like this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suprematism#/media/File:Malevici06.jpg

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