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Why is Modern Art so Bad?

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Yes to StrictlyLogical.  Emotionally, the sentiment in the video is pleasing as it promotes ideas in Romantic Art and denigrates ideas in Naturalistic Art.  I would rather look at Vermeer then Picasso.  But, like philosophy, art evolution is not a single line of works based on chronology - romanticism vs. naturalism is not equivalent to photographic realism vs. whatever else. By dismissing Impressionism as just a less disturbing and early fall from the grace in the prior paintings that mimic photographs, the speaker reduces his value judgment to the criteria of more than Romanticism in art, he reduces painting to manual copy of a realist image.

 

The Objectivist idea in art, derived from more fundamental ideas in metaphysics and epistemology, is not so much about the technique of presentation as it is about the subject/object we choose to admire in the presentation.  The objection is not that Picasso painted a women using a certain method and technique, it's that his representation (idea) of the woman, has so little value in saying anything at all.  Consider the possible implications of moving body part to unnatural positions - moving the breasts to the knees versus the eyes for example.  Assuming the painting was pleasant to look at in size, color, and proportion; what would Ms. Rand think of a woman with the unrealistic physiology described above?  She wouldn't purchase either.  But she might find a small value in the social suggestion of breasts for eyes if presented in a background context that fit the idea.  Although, she might have said, it's interesting, but not art. 

 

So, why is modern art so bad?  Define modern.  There's lots of moderns in South Carolina doing incredible things with the treatment of light, for example.  Maybe the concept categories in the field of art are unknown to me and I've just exposed my lack of knowledge?  I hope people who know more than me about this subject will comment.

 

ADDENDUM - This is my opinion, not a statement of fact.  I wrote it primarily because I'm interested in the comments of others who have knowledge of art generally and Objectivist art ideas specifically.  Txs.

Edited by jacassidy2

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But, like philosophy, art evolution is not a single line of works based on chronology - romanticism vs. naturalism is not equivalent to photographic realism vs. whatever else.

What do you have in mind here? This sounds like it might be an interesting way of thinking about the history of philosophy.

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What do you have in mind here? This sounds like it might be an interesting way of thinking about the history of philosophy.

It's way more simple and impossible based on the understanding of the current crop of teachers.  I just note that teachers and media resources in western philosophy base their hierarchy on the dates in history.  This method is obvious and somewhat informative, but only if the student is also studying general history, especially the history of the special sciences, at the same time. The incredibly intelligent student might then spot the reason for the errors.

 

Because so much of western philosophy is a failed process of: #1 -using mysticism to support Platonic ideas not usable by living human beings; #2 -later trying to find a substitute for the false certainty of that mysticism in a Platonic universe, where are the absolutes without a God; #3 - and, given that all such attempts are grounded in the attempt to elevate consciousness metaphysically above the rest of reality -----  it seems reasonable to categorize the systems developed by varied thinkers in western philosophy by their ideas, related and unique, according to their conclusions about existence and consciousness.

 

For example, reduce the ideas of vastly different (empiricists and rationalists) thinkers like Hobbs, Descarte, Spinoza, Leibnitz, Locke, Barkley, and Hume.  You end up with the same conclusions as relates to external reality, and somewhat, as relates to consciousness with each of these contrary thinkers.  I don't mean their particular ideas, I mean a reduction of each of their premises, concepts, and arguments to there fundamentals. 

 

It seems like organized education or literature ought to organize this group, not by date of life and work, but by some definition of what means they used to attempt to ignore the basic fact that existence is primary and existence exists.

 

It would be the best way to teach these ideas, but it will not occur.  These ideas led to pragmatism and you cannot teach an idea that undermines the method by which you impart knowledge.  Sorry William, there is no great new idea to explore here.  Jack

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I think it's a rather bad video.

 

How can art be objectively measured? He never answers that question, but instead gives us a few examples of what he thinks is good vs. bad art. What are the universal standards? His argument is simply "I like X better than Y". So do I, but that's not a proper argument.

Edited by Alfa

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I think it's kitsch. His style looks copied from Maxfield Parrish, but he lacks Parrish's technical proficiency.

I have to agree with this.  I'd hoped I'd see more after first watching.

 

A good understand of how Modern Art came to be the way it is can gleaned from reading The Painted Word by Tom Wolfe.  It's both informative and very amusing.

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It's a five minute video guys, not a treatise.  He simply asks that we go back to the days when we had standards and built upon what came before.  

 

This video was not for us, it was for the 99% of the population that does not chew on these subjects.

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What standards? Académie des Beaux-Arts standards? Neo-classicism and religious art? What are the universal standards he's referring to?

 

The impressionists that he holds responsible for the decline rebeled against the conservative standards of academic art, but they very much held standards of their own.

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In the 1976 lectures on Objectivism lecture 111, Leonard Peikoff looks at aesthetics, digging into the complexity of aspects that influence not only the artists philosophy guiding his creation of a work of art, it also involves the philosophy of the individual contemplating such a work. Both influence the complex sum of knowledge involved.

 

To paraphrase a line from OPAR chapter 11, pg. 412: If a man understands only that "Something is wrong," he is vulnerable to those who clamor that what is wrong is that there are no standards in modern art, or that what is wrong with modern art is <fill in the blank>.

 

Stepping back to the pleasure/pain mechanism as a "barometer" of one's basic alternative, [t]he sensation of pain is a warning that "something is wrong"2; it indicates some lack or damage that requires corrective action. On this level, the mechanism is automatic: the standard of value that determines bodily "right" and "wrong" is set innately. That standard is the organism's life.

This is one of the indicators that Miss Rand used to extend this parallel into the realm of ethics. By this point, objectivity in concepts, has been shown to her satisfaction. Continuing to discover principles she identifies man's life as the standard of value in ethics and the principle of individual rights as a cornerstone for politics.

 

From the Introduction to Ominous Parallels:

It is not necessary for me to prove that "something is wrong"2 with today's world. Everybody—of any creed, color, or intellectual persuasion, old and young, rich and poor, conservative and liberal, foreign and domestic—senses that something monstrous is destroying the world. But no one knows what it is, and people keep blaming one another—with some justice.
 

Why is art so bad? The is the question Robert Florczak asks. It is not difficult to know that when looking at some things decreed to be art, that "something is wrong". By the time he reaches "Let's celebrate what we know is good, and ignore what we know is not.", it does leave unanswered "How we know?". To this, thanks to Johnathon13, Mr. Florczak says: To be perfectly honest, I too believe that true objectivity regarding aesthetics is impossible (just don't let anyone outside this blog know I said so. Deal?!) If pressed by one more knowledgeable about objectivity in the realm of art "How do we know what is good?" the answer would ultimately have to come to "I just feel it." as Alfa pointed out in different terminology.

 

As Spiral Architect pointed out, this is a five minute video, not a treatise. The easy part is to dissect it and indicate where is goes lacking. Peikoff spends over an hour laying the groundwork for an objective perspective. Ayn Rand offers her Romantic Manifesto, and uses Halley's music in Atlas Shrugged thru Dagny's thoughts to concretize thoughts that Miss Rand conceives of occurring, although the actual musical percepts cannot be heard via the medium used. Until more objective presentations are put out there in similar format, Mr. Florczak's is one that is being used to help shape considerations on the matter.

 

 

1. Peikoff offers the disclaimer that he considers OPAR offers a superior presentation.

2. Quotation marks added.

Edited by dream_weaver
Added links to Alfa and Spiral Architect

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Luc Travers runs a blog which featured in August of 2013: Can We Agree on What Makes Art "Good"?

 

Referencing another piece that featured these two works:

kinkadevmillais.jpg

John Everett Millais’s “Blow, Blow Thou Winter Wind” (1892) and
Thomas Kinkade’s “A Peaceful Retreat” (2002) were among
the paintings shown to study participants (images via Wikimedia and Wikipaintings, respectively)

 

Luc criticized, but did not fully elucidate on the following portion that used exposure as a crude means to measurement.

 

Screen-Shot-2013-08-07-at-5.28.13-PM.png

This graph, from page 12 of the new study, shows the decline in
appreciation for Thomas Kinkade over increased exposure to his
work, and the opposite effect in the case of John Everett Millais.

 

Luc summarizes with:

However, there's something vital missing from this study: a method for appreciating art other than simply "exposure" to a piece. To fully understand the meaning depicted in any piece, including Millais' Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind (and therefore whether the work is "good"), one needs to do more than merely be "exposed" to the artwork...

 

Highlighting one more blog from his site,Discovering yourself features the following painting:

5450949_orig.jpeg?326

 

Cropping various areas of this visual presentation he presents several questions to contemplate (introspect):

  • What's your first impression of the painting?  Can you come up with a quick one-liner to describe what you immediately see?  (E.g., girl and statue)
  • Where is this scene taking place?  

A museum?  A home?  A studio?
(*Remember, in answering each of the questions, be sure to ask yourself the follow-up question, "How do I know that?")

  • Is the sculpture still being worked on?  

Has it been finished?  If so, how long has it been?

  • Who is this girl?  

The artist?  The patron?  The model?

  • How are the girl in the sculpture and the real girl  different?
  • What moment is the model experiencing?
  • How is she responding to seeing herself? 
  • How can you relate to what the young model is experiencing?

Contrast these illustrations and questions with what you might come up with while contemplating Robert Rauschenberg's pure white painting featured at the end of the OP video clip.

 

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Luc Travers runs a blog which featured in August of 2013: Can We Agree on What Makes Art "Good"?

 

Referencing another piece that featured these two works:

kinkadevmillais.jpg

John Everett Millais’s “Blow, Blow Thou Winter Wind” (1892) and

Thomas Kinkade’s “A Peaceful Retreat” (2002) were among

the paintings shown to study participants (images via Wikimedia and Wikipaintings, respectively)

 

Luc criticized, but did not fully elucidate on the following portion that used exposure as a crude means to measurement.

 

Screen-Shot-2013-08-07-at-5.28.13-PM.png

This graph, from page 12 of the new study, shows the decline in

appreciation for Thomas Kinkade over increased exposure to his

work, and the opposite effect in the case of John Everett Millais.

 

Luc summarizes with:

However, there's something vital missing from this study: a method for appreciating art other than simply "exposure" to a piece. To fully understand the meaning depicted in any piece, including Millais' Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind (and therefore whether the work is "good"), one needs to do more than merely be "exposed" to the artwork...

 

What does Travers mean? Isn't he disagreeing with Rand here? Wasn't her position that one should be able to be merely exposed to a work of art, and then, just by looking at its content, understand its meaning? What else does Travers think a viewer needs?

 

 

 

Highlighting one more blog from his site,Discovering yourself features the following painting:

5450949_orig.jpeg?326

 

Cropping various areas of this visual presentation he presents several questions to contemplate (introspect):
  • What's your first impression of the painting?  Can you come up with a quick one-liner to describe what you immediately see?  (E.g., girl and statue)
  • Where is this scene taking place?  

A museum?  A home?  A studio?

(*Remember, in answering each of the questions, be sure to ask yourself the follow-up question, "How do I know that?")

  • Is the sculpture still being worked on?  

Has it been finished?  If so, how long has it been?

  • Who is this girl?  

The artist?  The patron?  The model?

  • How are the girl in the sculpture and the real girl  different?
  • What moment is the model experiencing?
  • How is she responding to seeing herself? 
  • How can you relate to what the young model is experiencing?
Contrast these illustrations and questions with what you might come up with while contemplating Robert Rauschenberg's pure white painting featured at the end of the OP video clip.

 

 

Did you notice that none of those questions are about aesthetics? None of them are about visual artistry and visual expression. None are about the aesthetic effects of visual phenomena on the viewer, or about the artist's technical artistic skills or deficiencies, or about composition, choice of range of color palette, internal visual consistency, lighting, perspective, vantage point, angle, etc. Travers seems to have the mindset of downplaying or removing aesthetics from art. I wonder why.

Rather than being about visual art qua visual art, Travers' questions are about only one small aspect of visual art -- the narrative. In effect, he treats visual art as if it were literature, and he seems to be unaware of the expressiveness of all other elements of visual art. His doing so makes me wonder if he has any real knowledge of those other elements.

J

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What does Travers mean? Isn't he disagreeing with Rand here? Wasn't her position that one should be able to be merely exposed to a work of art, and then, just by looking at its content, understand its meaning? What else does Travers think a viewer needs?

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.)

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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.)

I have strongly disagreed with Jonathan many times, but... He is a very accomplished artist, in no need of art history lessons. If you search the forum i'm sure you'll find some of his work, and i'm sure you'll find that your comment was very misplaced.

 

I don't mean to sound harsh, you've probably just missed a lot of old threads on art here at OO. However, wether you agree or disagree with him you can't deny that the guy knows his stuff when it comes to art.

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I have strongly disagreed with Jonathan many times, but... He is a very accomplished artist, in no need of art history lessons. If you search the forum i'm sure you'll find some of his work, and i'm sure you'll find that your comment was very misplaced.

 

I don't mean to sound harsh, you've probably just missed a lot of old threads on art here at OO. However, wether you agree or disagree with him you can't deny that the guy knows his stuff when it comes to art.

Sorry for coming across as condescending, I tried to word my post in such a way as to avoid that. You are also correct that I missed the older threads you're referring to.

 

Edit: My thinking was that Jonathan13 might be a layman, like myself, who doesn't spend a lot of time with art and might benefit from being reminded of art he has previously seen. I assumed that because it's a mistake that I myself could easily have made, not because I thought I was superior. If I had known he was an artist I would not have posted as I did.

Edited by William O

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What does Travers mean? Isn't he disagreeing with Rand here? Wasn't her position that one should be able to be merely exposed to a work of art, and then, just by looking at its content, understand its meaning? What else does Travers think a viewer needs?

He left a short trail of dots indicating an incomplete thought. I looked at several of his other blog posts, and selected the one that came across as most related to the series of dots.

 

I don't know that Rand's position was that one should be merely exposed to the work of art. From an emotional standpoint, I would agree that the viewer could be struck where what he sees resonates with certain ideas he holds.

Did you notice that none of those questions are about aesthetics? None of them are about visual artistry and visual expression. None are about the aesthetic effects of visual phenomena on the viewer, or about the artist's technical artistic skills or deficiencies, or about composition, choice of range of color palette, internal visual consistency, lighting, perspective, vantage point, angle, etc. Travers seems to have the mindset of downplaying or removing aesthetics from art. I wonder why.

Rather than being about visual art qua visual art, Travers' questions are about only one small aspect of visual art -- the narrative. In effect, he treats visual art as if it were literature, and he seems to be unaware of the expressiveness of all other elements of visual art. His doing so makes me wonder if he has any real knowledge of those other elements.

J

I come from a design background. One of the practices on drawings was to specify a diameter with the word 'drill', 'ream', 'bore', etc. We leave those off now. The rationale behind this is not to bind how the hole should be created, which could impact cost. On a painting, I would consider this akin to distinguishing between brush strokes, or dabbing dots to create the image. While it can be assessed as to how the painting was created (technique), the influence it has on the what that was created (content) seems negligible to me.

 

Luc Travers was in my area one year, when a local Objectivist club had linked up with his visit to the museum in the area. He had gone thru the museum earlier in the week to familiarize himself with what was available, and then delineated his guided tour for our group to a selection of materials that fit his approach. In addition to questions similar to the ones asked on the second blog post, one exercise was to try and assume the pose of a main subject as completely as we could from observing the work. Facial expression, glance direction, relaxed or tense posture, etc.

 

Merely staring at a work, as I mentioned earlier, may give you an emotional response. Adding these other factors can help to assess why you have that particular response. Again, there are two sense of life's at work. The artists, through what he choose to present, and yours, which shapes your response to the work. From the latter, introspective techniques of determining what resonated with the artwork, and using the results to determine if it is the appropriate emotional response or ideas that helped shape it,

 

Before I found his blog, he had posted this elsewhere.

The exhibit features pairs of small, simple, colorful images on parchment-like paper, each one created by one of two different artists. From the title of the exhibit, "Nostalgic Objects", it was apparent that I was seeing objects of personal significance to the artists, but I was confused as to why they were paired in the way they were (The first pair I paid attention to is below: "What do two pages of lined paper have to do with two dresses??").

2658033_orig.jpg

Then I started reading the wall text below, and learned the personal story that each artist attached to the objects in the images (the papers and the dresses). And suddenly I realized the connection between the stories: they were both about a child's assertion of their personal identity, and the papers and dresses were the mementos that embodied that nostalgic moment. 

Suddenly I was excited to see the next pair of seemingly dissimilar objects in order to find out what nostalgic moment they both embodied! And grasping the various "nostalgic moments" (e.g. cherished acts of kindness, "green eggs and ham" moments, loss of a precious possession, bonding with parents, etc...) I couldn't help but start thinking of similar kinds of moments in my childhood, and then what kind of object--long lost object--would reflect that moment for me. The artists thought of this--they hoped that I would think about my life in connection to the art they'd created. On the far wall was a collage of sticky notes with visitors' own nostalgic objects.

In teaching art appreciation I strive to have my students grasp a theme and personally connect to it. I've been to exhibits of great art, but I've never been to an exhibit that activity encourages a genuine, personal connection with the art.

 

For me, personally, I found Luc's approach helpful in approaching art. That trip to the museum was only my second time in adulthood. It might have been nice had it preceded my St. Louis, Mo. to better appreciate the many statues throughout the area.

Edited by dream_weaver

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Before I found his blog, he had posted this elsewhere.

 

The exhibit features pairs of small, simple, colorful images on parchment-like paper, each one created by one of two different artists. From the title of the exhibit, "Nostalgic Objects", it was apparent that I was seeing objects of personal significance to the artists, but I was confused as to why they were paired in the way they were (The first pair I paid attention to is below: "What do two pages of lined paper have to do with two dresses??").

 

 

Then I started reading the wall text ....

 

For me, personally, I found Luc's approach helpful in approaching art. That trip to the museum was only my second time in adulthood. It might have been nice had it preceded my St. Louis, Mo. to better appreciate the many statues throughout the area.

In Wolfe's The a Painted Word, he makes the point that the Modernist's rejection of Academie des Beaux-Arts was because of the literalness of the works.  The works were programmatic - i.e. depictions of events from either Greek/Roman mythology or Biblical events.  The Modern artist wanted something more direct, less literal.

 

However, over time, Modernism became little more than the writing and issuing of manifestos of their art.  In other words, the artist of Des Stijl, Cubism, Constructivim, Futurism, Surrealism, PoP Art, Op Art, Photo Realism etc., could only be understood AFTER reading the manifesto.  Much as noted above.

 

Edit.  In my fourth year Architectural History course, I had a particuarlly annoying British professor (a Birmingham accent, to this day, makes me shudder) assigned my course thesis to be on Kazimir Malevich and the Supremistist movement.  What I wrote got me an F, which he crossed out and gave me a D, because he didn't want me to have to repeat the course the following year.

Edited by New Buddha

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I come from a design background. One of the practices on drawings was to specify a diameter with the word 'drill', 'ream', 'bore', etc. We leave those off now. The rationale behind this is not to bind how the hole should be created, which could impact cost. On a painting, I would consider this akin to distinguishing between brush strokes, or dabbing dots to create the image. While it can be assessed as to how the painting was created (technique), the influence it has on the what that was created (content) seems negligible to me.

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.  

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In Wolfe's The a Painted Word, he makes the point that the Modernist's rejection of Academie des Beaux-Arts was because of the literalness of the works.  The works were programmatic - i.e. depictions of events from either Greek/Roman mythology or Biblical events.  The Modern artist wanted something more direct, less literal.

 

However, over time, Modernism became little more than the writing and issuing of manifestos of their art.  In other words, the artist of Des Stijl, Cubism, Constructivim, Futurism, Surrealism, PoP Art, Op Art, Photo Realism etc., could only be understood AFTER reading the manifesto.  Much as noted above.

Good catch. I've heard this before, that if the painting does not stand on its own, then something is amiss. On my technical drawings, if I get a call inquiring what something means on it, I explain it. Afterword, I consider the call, and ask myself if it was something they could/should have known, or if it was something I could have organized or specified more clearly.

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