The Fine Art Swindle 5

rubens danPeter Paul Rubens, Daniel in the Lion’s Den, c. 1615, oil on canvas

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.

hockneyI 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.


About trueoutsider

I'm an artist.
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5 Responses to The Fine Art Swindle 5

  1. wewordsmiths says:

    You would think that at least this-or-that modest millionaire, or little group of same, might have the glimmer of what human, humanist art might look like; and then fund a foundation dedicated to gathering artwork of that caliber. There could be a set range of buying prices which describe a high & a low mark. The high being the most important, in order to break the polluted spiral of smoke & mirror inflation (inseparable from fever-dream speculation). To be fair to artists, the prices would not be absolutes, but some sliding percent, say, of the median, average, or typical American annual income*, maxing out at 100% for any single work (no multiples, please!). Works would be restricted from resale for a defined period in order to obtain a patina of commercial sanity, maybe 3/5/10/20 years, “permanent” also being an option. Such terms could be considered in the buying price. Of course, works could be loaned out to any other responsible & desirable venue.

    For this modest proposal, naturally, I would instantly be vilified as a scumbag screaming socialist by they of the right wing; led by the denizens of the Tea Bogs, those institutionalized at The Cato, and all the usual suspects on the Republican far right.

    Just as naturally, they’d be wrong, as the entire project would be a private affair, the government only an incidental player. But it is a fait accompli that they would be in *Ted Cruz full cry* were the project to see daylight.

    As you know, we live in a wolfish Plutocracy, disguised as a Democratic Republic; the vast masses a not-so-reluctant herd of sheep, led to endless pastures of entertainment, where they stand immobile, impotent, and ready for shearing.

    Time for more baloon art! This time, sheep.

    *e.g. Med=$50k Avg=65k Typ=35k

    “Typical” would be the statistical “mode”, or the most frequent or common instance in the set, the largest subset or grouping.

  2. trueoutsider says:

    I’d suggest that you’d be called a “scumbag” just as rapidly by the liberals. As Chomsky has pointed out Obama is a bit to the right of Nixon politically. It shows how far the country has drifted toward fascism, which is represented of course by Cruz, Koch Brothers, Tea Party, etc.. Wealthy liberals, as far as I can tell, have identical free-market Fundamentalist beliefs. Look at Obama’s economic team. Everyone believes that the greatest art will be winnowed out through the selection process of the infallible Free Market. Since Warhol is worth the most money, he’s the greatest artists. Liberals, in fact, are the ones selecting, promoting and buying this art. Not the Tea Party. The Free Market has decided Bill O’Reilly is our greatest historian at the moment as his Killing Patton is No. 2 on the NY Times bestseller list just below Amy Poehler’s Yes Please. We’re approaching the Zenith of American cultural achievement now. Fasten your seatbelt.

    In my opinion, the liberals are all for Sodom and Gomorrah style art. And the conservatives are for Cowboy Bush/Reagan Art… riding the range in Marlboro outfits. Then there are the “pure” artists or “art for art’s sakers” whose art refuses to transact whatsoever with the vulgar and sordid real world. These would be the artists who rarely if ever read a newspaper because they prefer to have their heads permanently stuck in their pure world of art where the lights and colors are all peacefully glowing.

    As Barbara Bush said about the war in Iraq: “Why should we hear about body bags and death? It’s not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?” In my tour through the Contemporary Art world Barbara’s sentiments are identical to just about all the art dealers, artists, art collectors and art critics I had the experience of being in contact with. The art world simply doesn’t want to talk about what their government is up to with their tax dollars. It has nothing whatsoever to do with them. Even to think about it risks their poisoning their beautiful art minds.

    As I’ve often said, you don’t get the government you want, you get the government you deserve. The same with the art world. It wasn’t Martians or a military coup that put our current President and Congress in power. The artists participating in the wretched spectacle while keeping their mouths firmly shut about what it’s devolved into are not being forced to behave the way they do by any external force I’m aware of.

    The facts are quite depressing. But, personally, I prefer to deal with what is true versus what is illusion. I’m always waiting for somebody to correct my current opinions by putting me straight on my misguided thinking. But so far, nobody ever shows up to do so. I don’t mind being a nobody and I’m hardly advocating a mass rebellion or any rebellion whatsoever. If artists want to dress up in their birthday suits and do the Tango it’s their decision to make.

    I do think of myself as a humanist artist, although there seem to be so few humans around in my vicinity that aren’t glued to a smartphone. So I’m pretty much left with my drawings and paintings filling up with bizarre grotesques. At least during the Vietnam Period there was a substantial part of the population who realized what we were doing was morally wrong. Nowadays? Does anybody outside of those on the far, far, far Left? The Left that is drifting around in some remote Cyber Siberia?

    To be honest, I myself am drifting toward the area of shutting down operations entirely. Perhaps to see if I have a chance of reconstituting my “beautiful mind.”

  3. wewordsmiths says:

    History, including the homunculus art history, is told in the main by the powers that be. Its contents reflect the zeitgeist of of each age. This day we have cheery colors & smileys, toddler play dough & piss, bland wrong questions with wrong answers or no answers, and bland emptiness wearing a hat of bland in order to be clever, or bland, I can’t remember which is which. No matter which is used, the effect is to cover awareness, political & otherwise, with a titanium whitewash or an onyx black. There is really nothing to see but clever emptiness. No matter how much art chat bubbles up & around, and no matter how shocking (bland by repetition) there is actually nothing to speak of.

    It strikes me now that a third accomplice needs to be added to the nondynamic duo of Duchamp & Greenberg. To fill out the triptych, we must add Malevich and his own hobby horse idee fixe, Supremitism. He also believed in the supremacy of Art-as-Concept, and/or art-for-art’s-sake only. Right about the same time as Duchamp finding things, perhaps just before.

    As champion of the Black Box or square (with periodic imitaters, endlessly amusing, who keep thinking they’re being cosmically original) Malevich believed he was reinventing the entire world of art as human endeavor. He would have been the great destroyer of subject. His movement failed with a whimper just after the revolution, and he went on to make other (mostly) empty art, known as Soviet Realism. Formerly, and formally, hated by none other than himself.

    The very, very humorous HISTORICAL fact is that not even Malevich was the originator of this very, very serious concept. That distinction belongs to someone who lived a bit before his time. Someone who introduced the NOTION, merely as a humorous interlude, as an interruption of narrative & typeface; a kind of letter-font that fills the page.

    This artist would be Lawrence Sterne, practicing his art 156 years before Malevich got so creative. Sterne’s “black square”, page 73 of the first volume of TRISTAM SHANDY, indicated both death and typographic silliness. Very proper, proportionate, in a work of humor laced with tragedy. Very human.

    And Sterne was a great humanist, unlike So&So&So, referenced above. His favorite author/artist was the great satirist Rabelais, who also unlike those three, used vulgarity to make a point, for a cause.

    Well, we have Howard Stern.

  4. trueoutsider says:

    Great observations, William. Let’s also recall that the great humanist painter, Marc Chagall, who rose up to fight against the notion of “art-for-art’s sake” in Russia was defeated and driven out of his teaching post by Malevich and those gathered around him with their extremist Messianic claims for the Suprematist Art—which demanded art become purity and avoid any references to the vulgar visible world. The Vitebsk artists fell for Malevich just as the American artists fell for Greenberg’s “purist” art-for-art’s sake emptiness. The great Baudelaire wrote, “The childish utopia of the art for art’s sake school, by excluding morality, and often passion too, was necessarily barren.” And we live in this barren wilderness now as American artists established pointless, empty decoration as high culture. The Guggenheim Museum even deaccessioned the work the owned by Chagall and others so they could afford to purchase the minimalist dreck that has spread far and wide now.

    So Chagall and a moral and humanist art has been denounced and crushed. And in it’s place the Howard Stern Entertainment Complex art world. Art historians and art critics cheer along with Malevich, Greenberg and Duchamp. We’ve vanquished Marc Chagall and all art with any richness of feeling and love of the actual world. All is formalist objectivity and a child’s utopia…

    Baudelaire’s remark is so fantastically prescient as look all around at what accompanies the dead decorative abstraction? Childish Basquiat, pseudo-naive, Haring graffitti. Art as childish. Not at all child-like in the sense of open to the wonder and mystery as in Miro and Klee. But childish as in infantile Cartoon Network art. It’s indeed a triumph of Capitalism to have rendered high art void of any content other than that of Cartoon Network, Abramovic/Oprah Winfrey type psychobabble, and banal abstraction. Or for those who want contact with the real world there is photo-realism or realism both amounting to the same thing. One painting from photographs. The other painting photographically from nature.

    Today the Guardian reports that half of all global wealthy is held by the 1%. The art world is a perfect reflection of the desires and tastes of the 1%. That’s who owns it. That’s who maintains it. In my book, it’s art for psychopaths. Art made by and collected and displayed by people with no empathy whatsoever for the poverty and consequent wars and collapse of sustainable living conditions that this inequality of wealth distribution brings in its destructive wake. If we see photographs of the impoverished it’s for the beautiful colors they somehow manage to use to brighten up their hovels. Third World poverty as an aesthetic experience.

    I also read yesterday that fully half of public school children in America live in poverty. One good reason we don’t have any of those Ash Can social realists around as those guys seemed to go for this downbeat kind of subject matter. And Greenberg has told us that work like that is retrograde, thoroughly inappropriate for the American Utopia he and his followers have clearly created and feverishly work to maintain.

    Art for Art’s Sake is the destroyer. Malevich, Greenberg, Duchamp, ad nauseum were the necessary handservants letting loose its destructive fury. Human beings, with their trivial concerns and suffering, mean nothing to the adherents of Art for Art’s Sake. It’s the Capitalist Secular Religion. The opiate of the people. Huxley’s soma. We go to art museums for exactly the same reason we go to Shopping Malls, the Cineplex, the Circus… to take our minds of all the troubles in the world. A cheap-tinsel utopia sustained by trillions of investment dollars philanthropically donated to us by the 1%.

  5. trueoutsider says:

    Also, William, I need to keep interjecting lest readers are confused, that I’m not doctrinaire and not making a blanket condemnation of every piece of art being made now. I think that there are certainly plenty of exceptions to the overall trend of totally dehumanized art.

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