And just what has True Outsider been writing now for years? John Yau has just recently come clean after being in the middle of the art rot for four decades or more, writing in his Hyperallergic piece : “Greenberg’s theories were narrow and wrong, catastrophically so. The need to undo the damage and to learn to see for ourselves continues.” Frances Stonor Saunders’ piece in today’s Independent on the CIA’s use of Modern Art as a weapon in the cold war is here.
This isn’t conspiracy theory, but is research based on Freedom of Information material from the agency itself and which is now amplified by former officials involved with the program. (What’s with the CIA these days? First they acknowledge the existence of Area 51, then they admit to toppling Iran’s Mossadegh in 1953 and now this?) Saunders’ research makes clear in no uncertain terms that Greenberg was either a CIA dupe (along with his being an uttter dope) on unwittingly advancing US foreign propaganda. But he was certainly well aware of how the funding of Abstraction Expression worked, being an inside player in a way denied the painters themselves.
In effect, American Art in its current glory was has grown out of aesthetic principles largely mandated by the CIA in the 1950s. The qualities of contemporary art: sterility, infantility, lack of any human content and displaying all the warmth of a corporate are perfectly in keeping with Greenberg’s dictum of art for art’s sake. Artists know nothing and saying nothing about current reality. The entire scope of Contemporary Art is to talk about what art itself is within the self-enclosed world of interminable bullshit theorizing. If artists say anything about current realities in their work in other than politically correct liberal terms the work is considered retrograde and pointless. It’s not only accepted but expected that an artist like Banksy is blowing smoke and his work is an inside art world joke where he grabs his museum shows and international art fame doing his art pranks that have about as much revolutionary content as Hello Kitty handbags. Does anyone remotely imagine the audiences, art dealers and Banksy aficionados have any notion of Banksy’s work constituting any kind of serious critique of the very class that’s subsidizing his work with purchases and museum shows?
The CIA’s Don Jameson commented, “Regarding Abstract Expressionism, I’d love to be able to say that the CIA invented it just to see what happens in New York and downtown SoHo tomorrow!… But I think that what we did really was to recognize the difference. It was recognized that Abstract Expressionism was the kind of art that made Social Realism look even more stylized and more rigid and confined than it was. And that relationship was exploited in some of the exhibitions.”
Well, yes, Dutch landscape painting and the Impressionists and Manet for that matter do indeed look rigid and stylized compared to people pouring buckets of paint onto a canvas. Why would any artist after that want to trouble themselves to learn the “rigidities” of drawing and composition. The incredibly nuanced demands of describing light on forms are so rigid, small wonder audiences would grow bored. And who can blame them for wanting monumental seas of paint… eventually evolving into Marina Abramovic-types with their bare-assed wonder and psychodrama after those monumental seas of paint grow stale and boring and rigidly predictable within a year or two after their discovery as great works of art?
Of course some of the greatest American artists of the pre-war years, who continued to work long after those years were slighted and ignored as inferior, out-of-date and hopelessly retrograde. And still are viewed that way to this day. Anyone actually learning to paint using the rigorous discipline of real drawing and painting, not to mention the imaginative capacity to employ that learning, are invariably viewed as out of it second-tier nobodies without the capacity to understand that two flat planes of color placed next to each other represent profoundly radical and deep artistic awareness that transcends Renaissance space.
And David Hockney has demonstrated tirelessly, with the aid of the clueless Museum world going along with his nonsense, that all the Old Masters did anyway was work in the manner of Richard Estes, Chuck Close or Hockney himself using optical devices.
After all, who even needs to look at Ingres, when we have a Hockney, whose abilities and tastes are far more matched to the current profound tastes of the Art Public? After all, Ingres is so obsessive and rigid and finicky.
I think Hockney manages to convey contemporary self-absorbed vacuousness and what looks like an anti-depressant fog in the man depicted above. It has to be said, nobody captures vacuous self-absorption the way David Hockney can. But as Lucian Freud has commented about portraiture, “They’re all self-portraits.”
Note the contrast in feeling one has looking into the eyes of the Ingres subject versus Hockney’s incapacity to render an ounce of human feeling or warmth in the man above. But that’s what Post-Modernism is all about, isn’t it? A complete absence of any human feeling, empathy, or intelligence?
A few months ago, Hockney’s 23-year old student assistant high on ecstasy and cocaine killed himself drinking drain cleaner. Seeing as this happened under the roof of a blue chip art star, I don’t imagine we’ll every know anything that will remotely resemble to truth about what happened to the poor kid. Lies and coverups are the stock in trade of the art world. That’s about all that they do really well,… or did. Recent fiascos like the one at Knoedler, to draw a political parallel (which as an artist I know nothing about), resemble Obama’s pathetic and reeling performance trying to get anybody to believe the latest “iron-clad” evidence justifying more civilian massacres in a country that hasn’t harmed or remotely threatened us.
We’re going to teach Assad the shining moral lesson that using chemical weapons to massacre Syrians is just plain wrong by massacring Syrians with conventional bombs. After all, the US is the sole moral authority that decides who gets bombed and who doesn’t. If we bomb countries it’s an act of high morality. If others bomb countries they’re evil villains who must be snuffed out without concrete proof, trial, or close examination of the reliability of the evidence.