The BBC has now published a short piece “Was Modern a Weapon for the CIA?” to which the answer is an obvious yes as it’s been written about and established with the release of official records many years ago. Nice of the BBC to finally break such a big story. Serge Guilbaut’s How New York Stole the Idea of Modern Art published in 1983 was where I first read the details about how the US government, CIA and Rockefeller MoMA had all colluded together funding the “triumph” of New York School painting, and thus both selecting and defining what would be considered significant art.
By doing so, they naturally entirely delegitimized Picasso, the Surrealists, all realists and all other figurative work as being retrograde. I didn’t realize at the time, as I was still naive and enmeshed in the art world and dreams of being an artist, that the fact that the American state and corporate world funding and selecting what art was significant and what wasn’t delegitimized that art as well.
The irony, of course, is that America was presenting Abstract Expressionism as Freedom Art in distinction to the state-funded Soviet Realist art with it’s representational and academic “backwardness” while America itself was state-funding abstract art as being infinitely superior to any representational art, which of course included the entire history of Western Art.
So the art that was the apogee of progress and Civilization was the art which entirely obliterated any kind of connection whatsoever to the actual world in which it was made. One can only imagine what we’d think of Greek civilization if we were looking back on colored squares, colored, fields, dripped paint, or all of the other Clement Greenberg nominees for artistic genius he selected for inclusion in the glory of American Civilization.
It should also be noted that immediately after the selection of artists like Pollock and de Kooning as the hight of Western Civilization their way of painting was immediately repudiated by the next wave of young painters, who entirely dispensed with the rigamorole of arriving at mature abstract style over many years of work and (see Stella, Judd, Noland, et al) all one had to do is have the brain power to deduce the pure reductionist simplification which required no artistic skill whatsoever to elaborate. No drawing, no paint handling (a housepainting brush was sufficient as there were no details to put in).
And as this was so obviously absurd, not to mention boring, “pluralism” blossomed with everything but the kitchen sink described as the next New Breakthrough by who else, but more American geniuses, even greater than the genius Abstract Expressionists as they’d taken that early breakthrough to ever greater heights..
Of course, the absurdity has to be underscored here. Not that more than a handful of anyone reading this will understand what I write anyway. But let’s take Degas (who some of you might recall). Imagine that Degas was hailed as a great painter by his colleagues in France as he was carrying forward the light of Western Civ in his brush. And then three years later all the other French painters decide that no, that kind of painting won’t do at all. Better to make Bronzed beer cans and happenings and sculptures of giant household utensils.
That would totally repudiate Degas and his work, would it not? But no! Not in America! The Abstract Expressionists are still the greatest. And so are Bronze Beer cans! It’s all the greatest art ever made. Plus Degas is still totally retrograde and there’s no point whatsoever in that old stuff. As a matter of fact, the only thing that makes something art is that it’s NEW! And in America, if it was NEW once, as in Abstract Expressionism, Silkscreen Andy and Bobbie… It’s always NEW..
And artists actually believe this. As far as all the ones I’m aware of anyway. As I keep saying, the only definition of art that anyone has nowadays for art is “whatever MoMA says it is.” The Myth of Progress blends into the Myth of Rockefeller as genius. … and Trump… and Clintons… and Stephen Hawking and Bill Gates… Whoever has power and money is a genius. Doesn’t matter how stupid their ideas are (Hillary: Lets knock off Quadafi, Syria, Putin, … etc.) they’re all brilliant. Our leaders are brilliant. The art they’ve chosen, by letting the people decide! is brilliant.
Don’t you all just love Andy? And Jeff Koons? Jeff Koons at a Steve Wynn casino. If that isn’t the height of civilization can somebody tell me what is?’
Oh right… a couple floating color lozenges, 10 running yards of cadmium orange with a couple vertical stripes, paint arbitrarily flung across 10 running yards of canvas.
In regards to his drip paintings Pollock said: “I deny the accident.”
This is a delusional statement. Anybody flinging paint off a stick onto a canvas is creating accidental effects. So Pollock believes he’s just an intermediary and the Divine Hand is putting all his lines and rips exactly where they should be? He’s the possessor of artistic magic and when in his creative state nothing whatsoever is accidental? This is patently ridiculous.
Yet, we accept and even worship this kind of false religious proclamation (as Pollock is just one among many with pseudo-religious proclamations regarding their work from Malevich to Kandinsky to Mondrian to Newmann/Rothko/Still/Resnick)?
Quite obviously, if these pseudo-religious claims are hogwash so are the paintings themselves. Or I should say, they’re pretty objects or not pretty objects depending on one’s particular tastes in color and design.
And how could all of these various pseudo-religious claims be true. Manicheanism and Theosophy and Christianity are not compatible beliefs (Malevich was a self-proclaimed Christian mystic). In other words, if Pollock’s or Rothko’s paintings are not describing some profound mystical order then what are they other than pleasant visual decorations?
And if that’s all they are, why are we making such a big deal of them, outside the fact that they’re worth millions and millions of dollars? This, of course, indicates what the True God of American Capitalism is that everyone is worshipping. Money and Power. Might makes right. If we say Pollock and Warhol are the greatest painters of the twentieth century it is so!!
The real achievement of American art was to first blur the lines between fine art and commercial art and then eliminate those lines altogether. Instead of recognizing this artists want to live in some kind of fantasy world where they’re living at the height of some majestic civilization that is constantly making new innovations following on the amazing achievements of a paint spattered or paint-soaked canvases.