Reading this Jonathan Jones artblog on the Guardian I ran across this:
I think that far from being a revolutionary vision hatched out of the brain of its leader, André Breton, the surrealist movement was actually the last echo of a quest for the irrational that has it roots deep in the 19th century.
I don’t agree with this, and it might just be a semantic difference. My view of Surrealism is that it has been the basis of art since the cave painters. Why else does Herzog title his recent film documenting the 32,000 year old paintings discovered in the Chauvet caves in southern France Cave of Forgotten Dreams?
Dream is the essence of surrealism as has been the essence of all artistic practice. Dream being the direct connection with the subconscious.
Dream is the basis of where all painting and art making have derived for countless centuries. That is until the bleak current moment, where Duchampian notions (that have nothing to actually do with Duchamp at this point) that art is a didactic exposition of some half-baked “idea”. This hare brained notion has lodged in contemporary art through the continual artists statements, explanations, curated theme shows, etc., turning art into a shallow nihilistic exercise endlessly explained by clueless art writers tasked with pouring endless drivel (read Sales Talk) over works of art. Better that people not look at the pile junk slung into the corner of the gallery but instead read the reams of labyrinthine prose used to justify it.
Artistic content derives from the subconscious. Avant-Garde strategies (read Art Market Strategies) are void of any subconscious content and thus void of any artistic content.
Max Ernst’s and Ivan Albright’s versions of The Temptation of St. Anthony were both painted in 1946-47.
Albright and Ernst aren’t playing tiddly winks here. They’ve been there, just as any artist worth looking at has been there in one form or another. What is now shown in most galleries is hogwash. Fetishized commodities don’t constitute artistic achievement, they don’t even constitute artistic aspiration. They constitute commercial aspirations.
Most contemporary art is wholesale commodity fetishism. Most of the rest is seriously tainted with it.
The Surrealists, the Ernst and Albright above, retain their roots to the 15th century painting below. Very little painting proceeding from the time that the American capitalist market took the helm defining what art was has maintained the connection to true art and has devolved into a simulacra (to use Baudrillard’s vogue phrase) of art.
This is all a function of the contemporary art world, which at this point is little more than a vast financial bubble similar to the housing, dot.com, and the rest of the capitalist bubbles. At the center of it are cynics intent on defining Surrealism and artists who maintain a belief in the reality of the subconscious, emotional and mystical practice of art-making as retrograde. Note Jones’ reference to Surrealism as the “last echo”. Art Critics in the mainstream press and the commercial magazines to my reading practice a near uniform ideological conformity in that regard.
1494 Bernardino Parenzano
For a poem describing to the art critical contemporary world one can click the post below to hear Charles Bukowski reading “The Genius of the Crowd”.