The Final Descent

.Only in America, right? As in President Donald Trump. Anybody have any thoughts on that. I just got this video from a German friend of my wife’s. Who says the Germans don’t have a sense of humor? Or could play rock guitar! Don’t worry. I’m not going to yammer on about politics as I’m aware artists aren’t interested in minor things like that. So after the video entertainment I’ll get back to hammering at the art fraud. Of course that has to do with politics as well, so there’s a bit of that. I just think it will be helpful to understand how they operated in the past, as they created the present, and that perhaps my 5 0r 6 readers interested in how we got from there to here will gain a bit more illumination.


OK. Enough humor. Back to the depressing stuff. On the eve of our self-destruction I ran across an article that largely summarizes a number of the points I’ve been writing about for the last few years on my blog. It’s interesting that the author is anonymous, but I find almost everything he says unimpeachable as much of it is footnoted. I also highly recommend the book that he begins the piece with for reading, one of the more fascinating books on the Kennedy Assassination. It centers on the murder of Kennedy’s mistress Mary Pinchot Meyer, who was (get this) a Washington Color School painter, lover of Kenneth Noland and Greenberg acolyte. On top of trying to carry through a plan to dose the militarists in DC with her pal, Timothy Leary’s LSD.  Mary’s Mosaic: The CIA Conspiracy to Murder JFK by Peter Janney.

And to be clear, I have no idea about the website I found this on. Other than glancing at the “punk art” that I’ve never been a big fan of, I haven’t looked at any of the other articles. But “A Murder in Flatland: The Irruption of the Real in American Abstract Art” is one of the more brilliant pieces of writing I’ve read in years. Of course, as Jan sings above, I have to add”: “Thank you, American Art Writers, for setting the bar so low.”

The one thing that jumped out at me in the piece was this:

However, the artists themselves were not innocent dupes: Motherwell, Calder, Pollock, and Baziotes were all members of the American Committee for Cultural Freedom, with Rothko and Gottlieb sympathetic to the committee’s directive to purge the art world of communist influences.

This places the above artists playing direct roles in the McArthyite witch hunts of the times. And just look how they were all rewarded for their efforts. This is a really explosive charge, just as is the fact that Duchamp has been shown to be a near-pathological liar beginning with stealing another artists work by claiming credit for it’s creation.

It’s proof positive that American Art was conceived in a pack of lies and political propaganda. No doubt the American and Global Art World will find it of no interest as it would mean shedding themselves of the baked-in delusions they accepted the day they set foot in art school. Why nobody going into art school ever bothered to question any of it is another matter.

But it’s quite clear that these are delusional beliefs due to the simple fact that extremely few “artists” are capable of entertaining any questioning of their beliefs whatsoever. This is invariably the case with all cult belief systems. The premises can never be questioned as everything is faith-based. Even when overwhelming evidence is presented (forgeries, financial corruption, lying participants, auction rigging, etc. etc.) the believers still insist that the judgements of all people concerned are infallible and the artists chosen as the greatest geniuses at every stage of American rise to the top of the Arts were flawlessly picked by “the experts.”

Tom Wolfe’s “Painted Word” isn’t understood, much less read. Of course, Wolfe was identified by the art world as a reactionary, a fascist, and an anti-Semite. That’s pretty much the reaction of all people with cult beliefs to anyone who tries to connect them back to reality. Not only Wolfe wrote about what a sham it all was, but even the mighty insider Robert Hughes.

Here’s his description of the artists painting with the Greenberg prescribed formula:

Like gigantic watercolours, which they were, Noland’s targets and chevrons bloom and pulsate with light; they offer a pure, uncluttered hedonism to the eye. But that is all they do offer. The paintings Frankenthaler, Noland, Louis, and Jules Olitski did in the 1960s were, as a whole, the most openly decorative, anxiety-free, socially indifferent canvases in the history of American art. Yet what was written about them was among the most narrow, prescriptive, authoritarian criticism in the history of American letters – New York formalism of the sixties…

All Hughes is writing is the obvious. What we in the reality-based world would call the Truth.

Or one can read Tom Wolfe, who’s a far better eye than Hughes, as Wolfe was an estimable draftsman as well as writer. In other words, he knew what he was talking about.

Greenberg’s Post-Painterly Abstraction has gone under other names since then: Hard-Edge-Abstract and Color Field Abstract, to name two. But all of them can be defined by the way in which they further the process of reduction, i.e., the way they get rid of something – just a little bit more, if you please! How far we’ve come! How religiously we’ve cut away the fat! In the beginning we got rid of nineteenth-century storybook realism. Then we got rid of representational objects. Then we got rid of the third dimension altogether and got really flat (Abstract Expressionism). Then we got rid of airiness, brushstrokes, most of the paint, and the last viruses of drawing and complicated designs.

All of this work, which has been sold as the greatest art made in the 20th century is nowhere even close to being great art. It hardly even makes it as mediocre art. It’s so far below the accomplishments of the 19th century it isn’t funny. It’s pathetic. Yet’ Americans are going to cling to this to the grave because, in reality, it’s all they have. The blew to pieces the real tradition of great art. Jeered at it in impotent and infantile Duchampian gestures on the one hand. And threw around paint in structureless color orgies or sterile unfeeling graphic designs on the other.

And then they moved on to commercial art, Pop Art, as being the greatest art ever made. From the School of Paris in the late 19th Century to the School of Jeff Koons in the late 20th Century. Yet it’s all infallible. The greatest rise to the top. That’s how capitalism works. The dumb stuff descends to the botttom while the graffiti and abstract sublime and Marina Abramovic strip shows and youtube video art ascends to the place where it is recognized as True Genius. Let the people decide! They have made their decision!

Just look at this election cycle. The wisdom of the people. The wisdom of the American Media. The wisdom of the American Art world… Yes… America! Thank you for lowering the bar. Now everybody’s an artist. Everybody’s creative. Utopia is here.

It’s exciting. I’m off now to see the Star Wars Costumes at the Denver Art Museum and after that to the Clyfford Museum where along with my Karl Stockhausen, John Cage, and Velvet Underground Itunes mix I’ll undergo a confrontation with the Manichean primordial.

Plus keep my eyes out for the entry of any of these savages that might have gotten past the security guards.

About trueoutsider

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14 Responses to The Final Descent

  1. Eric Wayne says:

    We are probably circling each other, and I for one am old enough, that I regurgitate my own rhetoric as fresh inspiration without knowing. Nevertheless we have a bit of a different vantage point on AE. But, first, thanks for that video. Very amusing and a catchy tune in 80’s commercial power rock style.

    Where we seem to differ is that I don’t mind AE so much, even like some of it. If, as Hughes says, Noland’s targets “a pure, uncluttered hedonism to the eye”, well, there’s nothing really wrong with that, it’s just not my favorite kind of art. Also, note how closely Hughe’s criticism mirrors Duchamp’s own attack on Impressionism as being merely retinal. The real problem for me isn’t how bad AE and other art is, but rather how artificially elevated it is, and how other art forms are artificially sidelined. This all happens in another artificial narrative of art history, in which one ism follows another in some sort of presumed progression, in which case other styles which do not attempt to be on the cutting edge of this progressing movement of art (including anything I do) are automatically considered hopelessly backwards, reactionary, and even somehow the last “deplorable” eructations of the dying, white supremacist, patriarchal, colonialist, misogynist mindset.

    So, I don’t mind a giant, wall-sized canvas covered with splashes of paint, as long as it is done well, just as I don’t mind a Japanese rock garden or other landscaping. I mind the rhetoric that takes a giant shit on my head, and simultaneously declares me the inherently evil artist. In fact, these days, my art is so far outside what is considered valid, as I increasingly do whatever the fuck I want and try to harness my pre-brainwashing late teen fascinations, that I suddenly feel odd even calling myself an artist. Am I an artist? [See my latest here:

    There’s a video of a guy who followed Trump around some years ago as performance talking about his “art”. He goes as far as to say that Trump is a “performance artists” and “conceptual artist”. If Trump is an artist, am I even and artist at all?

    For whatever reason, probably because it is too over-intellectualized, abstracted, and thus removed from empirical reality, art is victim to subordination to ideas in a way that music is not. For this reason I often look to music to see the obvious errors of fine art. If Lady Gaga is propped up commercially as great popular music, I’m quite sure far better music is being neglected, the musicians throwing in the towel, working shit jobs, and flirting with suicide. But this doesn’t mean Gaga’s music is necessarily terrible. I had a girlfriend in China who had “Poker Face” as her ringtone. She didn’t like Gaga because it was horrendous, but rather because it was catchy.

    I am not a fan of Warhol. It’s just not the art that appeals to me, because, well, I know that I like art that has a bit of emotion in there somewhere (again, think music), and I like to see a personal vision. Warhol, Kuns, Duchamp, Hirst, Wool, Prince and others insist there is no unique interior, no spark of originality, no transcendence. For me, then, there’s no metaphoric warmth. Their work strikes me as cold and sterile. However, I can sorta’ like it for what it is.

    I suppose the difference between our vantages (and I could be wrong here, which is not at all unheard of) is that you denounce the conceptual strain of art more than I do. I have done that in the past, but at some point realized my real problem was not with conceptual art, but rather with my own art being devalued and relegated to a maligned heap of shit.

    If Duchamp’s creations were considered minor works, of some historical significance, but largely on the margins of art history, I wouldn’t mind him at all. In fact, I’d prefer a world with “The Fountain” in it (yeah, I know there’s a story that he didn’t even make it, but let’s just pretend he did for arguments sake here), as long as it wasn’t considered quite possibly the greatest artistic achievement of the 20th century.

    But, like I said, at this juncture, I have to accept that not only is my art automatically shit, I’m not even an artist. That’s the thing that I’m mostly objecting to.

    Trump’s victory is a whole other topic a dare not broach.

  2. trueoutsider says:

    Hi, Eric. I wonder if you could resend the link. I’d really like to see your work, but the link you sent me doesn’t work for some reason. I get an error message.

    Meanwhile, I’ll try to write something in response to what you’ve written. There’s a Francis Bacon story that’s instructive on this notion of being an artist or not an artist and making “art”. I don’t consider myself an artist, or what I make to be art. Certainly not, if art is anything whatsoever that goes into a museum without regard to any kind of intelligible standards or values.

    In other words, if bronze beer cans and canned shit and Marina performances and urinals and bicycle wheels and hatracks and rotoreliefs and “art rock” and “art cinema” (both recent vintage concoctions) and Spalding Gray talking into a microphone are all artists making art then I’m not an artist. I don’t do any of those things. I don’t have anything in common with any of it whatsoever.

    If human society is going to invalidate van Gogh and Monet and Delacroix and further back in time and replace them with Morris Louis, initially, and then Andy Warhol and then Jeff Koons (establishing that Warholian nihilism is now the tradition) that leaves me well outside the circus tent. I bring this up solely to indicate that I do not see Louis, Frankenthaler, Resnick, et al, as remotely related to Claude Monet or Camille Pissarro. You don’t see just how pathetic that American work is next to French Impressionism and Post-Impressionism? You really think that Morris Louis is “retinal” in the same way van Gogh is “retinal.”

    Secondly, I don’t accept a word Duchamp said. I think he was absolutely full of shit. A complete charlatan from start to finish. I can go into that more as well. But what I don’t understand is why you would accept prima facie that Duchamp is an artist. Because art critics say so? Keep in mind that in the 1940s Duchamp couldn’t even give alway almost his entire body of work to any American Art Museum, except the one in Philadelphia where it’s now housed, and is perhaps the lamest couple of rooms in any art museum in the world. Of course, not to those who believe in him as a sainted figure who finally managed after thousands of years of purely retinal art to return it to where it actually belongs, at the service of the mind of John Baldessari and Lawrence Weiner and Sol Le Witless.

    I’m just outside it. I don’t believe in it. I never believed in it. I was certainly brainwashed by it. And it took me decades to un-brainwash myself. But I get not the slightest pleasure or interest from any of Duchamp’s work. I don’t “hate” it as everyone keeps putting words in my mouth. I’m absolutely neutral to it. It bores me both visually as well as an “idea” as I don’t find that his work has any ideas. For many years I regularly asked other artists who say they love Duchamp, Naumann, Johns etc. etc. why they like the work. “Because of the idea.” “Oh… and what is the idea? Could you explain what the idea is because I don’t get it?” I’ve never yet heard an artist give me an explanation of what the idea was that was remotely coherent. Nor was it remotely interesting. One person told me that Nauman’s piece Clown Torture was about the idea of the Clown in society and the artists relationship to blah, blah, blah. How ridiculous does it have to get? When artists say they great admire this or that brilliant artist and when asked what they admire so much you’re treated to a lot of clear nonsense to the extent any will talk at all about it.

    Somebody should make a an “art video”, as I’ve suggested many times, of artists standing in front of the Buttplug or Queens Vagina or Jasper Johns targets and have them explain to the viewers why these are great and important works of art. That would reveal in an instant just how fraudulent all of this is. And it is fraudulent. That’s about all I’m saying.

    Perhaps we are saying pretty much the same thing, only with different words, and from different perspectives and backgrounds/experiences. I also don’t really mind that much that people are into the fraud, as I find that interesting as well, which is why I’ve taken up writing almost exclusively about the fraud. That’s for the simple reason that nobody on earth is interested in art. I wrote for a good two years about Turner and Old Masters, plus tried to discuss them for some three years prior to that on other “art forums”.

    Plenty of people interested in how to forge them. The proper materials, methods, etc. But who they were? The worlds they came from? What their work was about? No interest whatsoever. Too complicated. Easier to just forge them.

    So, in that sense, I’m fine with the bizarre worship of beer cans and canned shit, just as I find the tulip bubble in Holland where an orchid cost more than a Vermeer or Rembrandt. I also like orchids and tulips… and pretty Morris Louis. I just do not at all buy into on any level Duchamp’s assertion that whatever an artist calls art is to be considered art. In the first place it’s a proposition chasing its own tail. How do we consider that person an artist in the first place exactly? Just because he says he is? And the proof that he’s an artist is that he’s chosen a pair of Nike sneakers and put them in an aquarium and it’s shown at MoMA?

    You don’t find that a bit absurd on its face?

    If you want to consider it a rhetorical question, that’s ok. But it’s really the central question I’m asking other artists and that they steadfastly refuse to answer. Why is it that anyone should consider Marcel Duchamp or Jeff Koons and the rest who simply repeat him an artist? Just because he said he was? Because Walter Arensberg backed him and his absurd notions and objects to the point of finally getting a single museum in America to take them. Why was he doing it in the first place exactly? What artist has an operator like Arensberg trying to get his entire body of work into an Art Museum other than to give it the validation that it would clearly not have were it sitting in a warehouse gathering dust.

    These are serious questions. And I think they’re questions all artists have to confront head on and think about. If our entire art world comes out of a CIA/Rockefeller/Greenberg driven fraud derived from an extremely small art community. Only a few hundred players at the time in lower Manhattan why are we accepting those judgements as eternally true and correct? Why are we accepting them at all?

    • Eric Wayne says:

      Hi (ah, shit, I forgot your name) “True Outsider”. Thanks for writing back. Incidentally, I don’t get any notifications from WordPress, and this may have really quite a lot to do with your small audience. I have to think to go to your blog, and look at the “recent comments” section in the right columns to find out if you responded. I have every reason to assume you haven’t if I don’t get a notification, as I do with everyone else. Kinda’ blows. Oh, here’s the link to my latest piece, which I consider a minor work:

      Your response is cracking me up. You do say a lot of the same things as I do, but I go for a softer and more forgiving angle, at least at present. If you looked, you could find me saying almost precisely the same things as you in some of my earlier posts on Duchamp (barf), Koons (vomit), Hirst (hurl), Prince (puke) and the other cast of characters. But, at present, I try not to do the shitting on, and just focus on washing off the shit that’s been plopped onto me. But let’s get into some of the nitty gritty here.

      Your wrote: “if bronze beer cans and canned shit and Marina performances and urinals and bicycle wheels and hatracks and rotoreliefs and “art rock” and “art cinema” (both recent vintage concoctions) and Spalding Gray talking into a microphone are all artists making art then I’m not an artist.” Yeah, I have this same weird feeling, though, I like art rock, I just consider it music.

      “You don’t see just how pathetic that American work is next to French Impressionism and Post-Impressionism?” Ah. That’s a rhetorical question, so, I won’t be offended. I make the same argument that Duchamp’s accusation of art being merely “retinal” was applied to Van Gogh, and reject it for that reason. Would I put de Kooning in the same category as Pissarro? Maybe. There’s some overlap there. But, no, I wouldn’t put Piero Manzoni in the same category, as shit-canning is a very different and unrelated skill.

      “Secondly, I don’t accept a word Duchamp said. I think he was absolutely full of shit. A complete charlatan from start to finish.” Ha, ha, ha, ha. I’m mostly with you. He might have done some good stuff if he continued with his “Nude Descending the Staircase” and his glass painting, though. I kinda’ like the bicycle wheel on the stool, for what it is, and the spiky iron. I consider them minor curiosities, more comments on art than art. The are props, jokes, pranks, and whatnot. It ain’t Van Gogh out painting the crows over the wheat-field days before taking his own life. No it ain’t. Not even close. It has as much in common with Van Gogh’s oeuvre as does the lab experiments over at pharmaceutical giant of your choice, say, Pfizer.

      “But what I don’t understand is why you would accept prima facie that Duchamp is an artist.” Oh, ’tis a very loose definition of artist, and he did make some paintings and objects that certainly pass muster. I don’t say he’s a great artist. He showed some potential, but went in a different direction, which I think should be a different category altogether, “conceptual art”. It’s definitely NOT visual art, but rather “art” in the broadest sense, which includes all of the arts, music, literature, set design, and so on.

      “I’m just outside it. I don’t believe in it. I never believed in it. I was certainly brainwashed by it. And it took me decades to un-brainwash myself.” Cheers. I’m with you on this. I’m a different kind of “artist”, or rather I do a different kind of art, being at least presently primarily interested in “visual art”, which means “imagery”, and within that category I like imaginative imagery, and by that I mean the kind that signified a unique or individual perspective. Another way to say it is that I like art that allows me to visually see through someone else’s eyes. I think that’s a pretty standard thing, though it’s been sidelined and even maligned by conceptualism and identity politics.

      I also agree that I can’t find anything philosophical from the likes of the conceptual artists that I can sink my teeth in, and I rather like philosophy, at least enough to have gotten “A”s in my philosophy classes, to occasionally read it for fun, to listen to lectures on it, and even to write about it [check out my article “How Postmodernism Has Worked Against us”. You’ll like it, I think. The conceptual artists have struck me as surprisingly inarticulate.

      You mentioned the butt plug. That’s my “new genre” teacher, Paul McCarthy. Now you are talking about my direct indoctrination. Well, as for his articulation of the finer philosophical quandaries of art, when I was his student in my early twenties, I was aghast at the lack of apparent verbal expression, and used to do a rather wicked impersonation, which I believe I’ve shared with you already via one of my parodic videos.

      I’ll grant that conceptual and other non-visual artists are “artists” in the broad sense. Fine. But their art doesn’t much contribute to that which I go to art to find. We can accept them as “artists” out of generosity of spirit. But, what I am much more interested in is that I am starting to have a hard time calling myself an artist at all, and in direct proportion to the more successful I become at achieving my artistic aims. Obviously you have this same feeling. So, rather than saying that conceptual artists aren’t artists, I’m merely arguing that artists are artists, too.

  3. JP Jacob says:

    I just found your blog. Holy Shit, am I reading actual discourse? Between your thoughts and other’s responses? – I am. Intelligent respectful discussion, and not a bunch of ass kissing Jerry Saltz followers loving or hating on him. I’ve only read a couple pieces but look forward to more and delving into you’re archives. Living in the Midwest, and worse, Mitch McConnell’s brand of southern Midwest has left me craving what is pretty tough to find, engaging artists and thought. I became addicted to Instagram in that search because it made the world a little smaller, only to find that while I appreciate and respect many artists work, it just brought the art tribes closer to my line of vision. Whether it is seeing Saltz occasionally shitting on a well paid (male) mediocre artist or Bushwick acolytes or artists trying too hard to Brand themselves it can be a long scroll to insta-content. While there is a place for me with IG, looking for more brought me to your site. Just wanted to express an appreciation.

    • Eric Wayne says:

      Sorry to but in here, but, Saltz, gack! Note that he banned me on Instragram after he posted a picture of Hillary a while back with the comment “Go Hillary” and I responded, “Go Business As Usual”. I don’t care for his art criticism, and particularly his attack on Francis Bacon, which I dissected here []. I suppose he’s got something to offer, but, since he loves Duchamp and hates Bacon, he and I are at opposite ends of the spectrum.

      True Outsider isn’t on Instagram. It is a rather good place to discover new artists, and artists who are not getting any recognition. There are actually quite a lot of visual artists out there who are more or less true to their inner vision, making images whether they sell or not. This be me:

  4. trueoutsider says:

    Hi JP, thanks for writing. I don’t think you can find discourse anywhere else on the internet about art that constitutes actual discourse, and not just people either preaching to the chorus and comment sections hammering away at one another with what they think are witty ripostes. That all strikes me as totally pointless. On top of that, I quit the art world a number of years ago, taking my work out of commercial galleries so I’m pretty detached from that particular game at the moment. I might or might not go back to it. I work intuitively and never predict what I’m going to do tomorrow when it comes to artmaking. I had to get out because it was corrupting my work as well as making me suicidally depressed. It was the best decision of my life to leave it.

    I’m trying to carve out a place at the Hegelian center, where there can be thesis v. antithesis to arrive at synthesis. This is the way I’ve always worked so I appreciate talking with other artists who differ from me just as much as those who don’t as long as it doesn’t become personal and get into the form of ad hominem attacks on me, rather than keeping things focussed on the art works, art critics, artists and so on under examination.

    I have great respect for any artist who writes in, as long as it’s polite. While I might disagree with their opinions, often strongly, I entirely respect other opinions where the artist doesn’t go on a complete ego trip. I invariably encourage artists to have their own viewpoint entirely independent of my own. Eric, who just wrote above, is a good example. While we disagree on any number of things, I have an entirely open mind to his point of view and often find I greatly benefit from it. None of my disagreements are in the least bit personal. I’m trying to think through things vis a vis my own work. That’s all. I’m not advocating a way of seeing or working. Nor am I putting forward my own work as “the way to go.” I’m not trying to sell anyone anything on the blog as you’ll note reading through it.

    The biggest problem with talking about art on this or any other blog is that I find it absolutely impossible to judge anything that I’ve only seen digitally. All of the art I’m highly critical of is work that I saw directly. I began art school in 1972 and grew up in Washington DC with the National Collection and Phillips, etc. Plus lived in Chicago and in NYC for 16 years. Travelled all over Europe and Mexico and Canada. That’s where my judgements about art come from. They don’t come from viewing digital images. If others do it, that’s okay with me. I just don’t want to go down that particular rabbit hole myself.

    In other words I’m an old fogey and a crank and outside the main currents, such as they are. But I’m not just venting spleen or talking out of my hat or off the top of my head in emotional outbursts. Whatever I’m writing I’ve put a lot of thought into over the course of 40 plus years of being deep inside the art world. So those are some of my biases. If the future is virtual reality helmets, as I saw yesterday in CNN art as videogame, then it’s all over as far as I’m concerned. I’ll keep working, but I think there’s very little to discuss once art is subsumed into video entertainment entirely.


    What I’m primarily attacking are the sources from which these notions arose… I.e. the theory known as Art for Art’s sake (which I find specious and one of the biggest frauds ever concocted this side of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show), and Duchamp’s spurious nonsense that if an “artist” chooses an object to be art it is instantly transformed into art.

    These two notions have delivered us the world that Marx predicted we now have under capitalism (the third ingredient in the total destruction of art). It’s worth quoting a bit here:

    “The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honored and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage labourers…. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before then can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned…”

    Baudrillard catches this when he comments on Warhol (believe it was in The Conspiracy of Art) that Warhol’s primary achievement was to transform the sacred into the banal. And that’s where we stand now. We’ve turned the sacred into kitsch objects with little to no human feeling or creative depth. When museums are showing graffiti work by teenagers, comic book art, kitsch ceramics and so on down the line and calling it “fine art” I think it’s time a few artists somewhere at least tried to wake themselves and smell the coffee before they go jumping onto the train to nowhere.

    But if they’re happy riding along on it, that’s fine with me as well. I’m Don Quixote. Not David against Goliath. I’m tilting at a complete mirage, in other words. When art is everything from a pile of debris on a museum floor to women opening up their vaginas for inspection (“performance artist” annie sprinkle) I find it hard to argue that art has any social meaning whatsoever. It can have individual meaning, but of what use is that other that everybody sits in their own private Idaho staring at the neon tube in the corner, the Post-Modernists version of Huxley’s some? I also find Post-Modernism an absolute crock. There’s no such thing as Post-Modernism. All we have is Modernism collapsed into chaos and infantilism.

    Anyway, these are my own personal views. I’m not insisting on them. I’m not an ideologue, although many people, particularly those who’ve never met me, want to insist on it. It’s called projection. And amounts to little more than scapegoating. That’s ok up to a point as well. If it gets out of hand I simply point out where I’m being mischaracterized or what I’ve written is being misunderstood.

    It’s extremely challenging and hard for me to write clearly, so I imagine much of the confusions and misconceptions are my own fault. I’m not a writer. And I’m not trying to create some “art persona” so what I say is pretty directly what I’m thinking at the moment. And it’s perfectly susceptible to change and revision.

    I’m also interested in all kinds of things outside of the domain of art, so I’m just as happy to discuss Deirdre Bair’s wonderful new biography of Al Capone, which I’m reading now. Or Western history as I’m also enmeshed in a marvelous book on Doc Holliday, living out in one of the places he traversed and about a 2 hours drive from where he’s buried. So there’s no need for you or anyone else not to bring other interests and enthusiasms to your comments should you feel inclined to.

  5. Eric Wayne says:

    Hi Bart: Just an observation and something funny I saw in a documentary.
    OK, I watched Adam Curtis’s “Bitter Lake” about Afghanistan, and American, British, and Russian failed attempts to mold their society. There’s a segment where Americans try to teach Afghans about contemporary art, and there’s a woman doing a slide show. Up on the screen, you guessed it, Duchamp’s “The Fountain”. I’m sure Curtis included this for just the reason I think it’s so odd. How confident we were that “The Fountain” was supremely important, enough so that we’d try to explain it to Afghans, who sat in stony silence. The women in particular didn’t see to be appreciating the genius of Duchamp’s revolutionary art.

    I’m trying to write an article about the purpose of art, or what is for me the most valuable purpose. I happened to read one of your early articles, and you touched on it. You may have used the phrase “personal expression”. That’s part of it. Giving the imagination expression, but also exploration, discovery, invention, and transcendence of the mundane. Anyway, when we look at the appropriationists there’s precisely NONE of that.

  6. trueoutsider says:

    Hi Eric, Sorry for the delay on getting back to you on the above. Loved seeing your work. Thanks for reposting it. I’m glad you understand, as above, that I’m just asking neutral straight questions or rhetorical questions, even though I will sometimes editorialize them to show my own bias. I’m more trying to be provocative than to have an argument. I think most readers misunderstand that I’m simply exploring various issues, many of them at this point less related to art than to what Adam Curtis is exploring. I’m not running a crusade to lead people back to the land of “true art”.

    I imagine you’ve watched Curtis’ The Century of the Self? That’s the center of Duchamp Greenberg and the whole mess. Advertising and propaganda. I might even add Wittgenstein’s “The Meaning is the Use.” If art is being used for decoration, PC propaganda, Ponzi Scheme enrichment of super wealthy… then what other “meaning” could it have exactly?

    What “meaning” can art have in a purely laissez-faire Capitalist world where what dictates what is called “art” is the market. How would it differ from fashion clothing, illustration, etc. etc. or the other visual phenomena that is entirely chosen by the “market.” If art has no religious or spiritual purpose, as all art (or what we now call art) of the past thousands of years had religious/spiritual content
    or content how is it art?

    Duchamp and Greenberg provided the texts for the dismantling and demolition of art, rendering it null and void as having any function whatsoever other than as entertainment (duchamp) or decoration (greenberg). All the Oprah Winfrey/Dr. Phil style “awe” in front of a couple floating color blogs is pure charlatanism. If one is in a “transcendental” state in front of color blobs then it’s entirely the creation of the viewer, not anything having to do with the so-called “art”. One can have exactly the same experience in any number of ways… For example one can arbitrarily throw two diluted cans of pale blue and yellow ochre paint onto 15 running feet of canvas side by side allowing them to soak in and then put it on a wall. Use low illumination and stare at it for a few hours.

    This isn’t the same as going into a Buddhist temple or visiting the Sistine Chapel.

    This is the temple of Mark Rothko. A not so bright and not so talented human being. Was he connected to God or a transcendental spiritual world? Not in the least. If you read his biography he was a mentally ill person popping anti-depressant cocktails and finally committing suicide with a razor blade. Is this a deeply enlightened spiritual person? No. So why are people sitting in front of those paintings thinking that they’re having deeply spiritual experiences.

    Watch Century of the Self for the explanation. Get inside a Lilly Sensory Deprivation Tank and you can have all kinds of hallucinatory experiences. Depriving one’s senses is not experiencing art.

    We can see just how fantastically moronic a population we are by looking at who is in the White House and who it’s being staffed with. We might even try to recognize that he’s there because ObamaClinton Neoliberal policies have driven the poor of the earth into total desperation to the point that right-wing populist movements are on the rise throughout the globe.

    Or we can consider ourselves enlightened geniuses staring at the Duchamp Urinal and explaining how only geniuses like us get it. Or we can sit in the Rothko or Matisse or Ellsworth Kelly chapel and have our deeply enlightened satoris because only such an exalted civilized people as ourselves really get work that is so sublime and of such grandeur.

    Or we can wake the fuck up.

    I don’t see us waking the fuck up. So I think all that any artist can do is proceed as a monastic. Cut off from any civilization as we’ve destroyed civilization. We blew a a lot of it smithereens in WWII. All the places in Arles that van Gogh lived and many that he painted were blown to smithereens. If we don’t wake up to what we’re doing than none of this makes any difference anyway as there will be nobody to revel in ecstasy looking at the open legged vagina of a corpse that was Duchamp’s final witticism, rotten creep that he was or to bask in a moronic James Turrell light environment.

    I would think that one job artists might usefully perform is to get people to wake the fuck up before they destroy the entire species. But apparently none of the other artists out there agree.

    It’s a clown show. The entire thing. All I can do is point it out. It’s the truth of how I see it. That’s what I think artists should do. Try to fucking say something, rather than kiss the asses of the very people that have made the chances of the human race’s survival virtually nil. But I’ll tell you one thing, it’s certainly no way to advance one’s career as artists are now tasked to provide every kind of spectacle possible in order to pretend that nothing whatsoever is happening.

    • Eric Wayne says:

      Hi Bart:

      I’m watching “Century of Self” right now. I’ve been watching an hour-long episode a day, and this is the fourth and final episode. It’s been blowing my mind. I’ve watched his latest, “Hypernormalization” and “Bitter Lake” already. “Century of Self”, incidentally, has me pondering what paradigm is being pushed on us now by the elite. I think some of it has to do with political correctness and identity politics, and using that to take people’s eyes off of the 1% via creating a decoy of the privileged, straight, white, male. Part of the reason I think this is how the last election was framed so consistently around identity politics, though as far as I could tell they were irrelevant to both candidates, except that Hillary sought to cynically exploit them. Of course those seeking to program us are not going to tell us what the agenda is, otherwise we will resist it.

      We seem to differ on what is or isn’t art, though I think I’m just being much more loose and generous with the definition. We might agree a lot about what it the best art, but I allow that fashion and illustration are art of sorts, and their creators “artists”, just as one can be a “writer” without writing substantive literature. To me this is just like saying that Justin Bieber is a musician. Fine. But he’s not a great musician.

      “If art has no religious or spiritual purpose, as all art (or what we now call art) of the past thousands of years had religious/spiritual content or content how is it art?”

      Well, quite a lot of my own art has a spiritual dimension, and much of that is fueled by some heavy psychedelic trips I took with Salvia Divinorum. I also have crucified aliens (I want the pathos of a crucifixion without the religious dogma). I’m quite interested in the transcendent in art, and, no, I don’t get that at all from the appropriationists, Warhol, or the commercial arts. But, I don’t have a problem with other artists, and other kinds of artists NOT doing that sort of thing. Less competition, for one.

      “All the Oprah Winfrey/Dr. Phil style “awe” in front of a couple floating color blogs is pure charlatanism. If one is in a “transcendental” state in front of color blobs then it’s entirely the creation of the viewer, not anything having to do with the so-called “art”. One can have exactly the same experience in any number of ways…”

      I’ve said this same thing myself several times, such as in my article about Robert Ryman:

      Let me quote myself: “There is a danger Ryman’s work all runs, which is that one will become so fascinated with the slightest permutations of the color white, and whatever sheen or reflection might gently play upon its surface, that one will cease looking at his paintings altogether and stare at the wall itself while lapsing into a state of samadhi.”

      I think we are pretty much in agreement about the big picture. I just like bouncing some ideas off of you because of your breadth of experience, reading, and most importantly art-making and connoisseurship.

      This brings me to another idea, which you’ve probably addressed elsewhere, but: talent. I was watching some old stand-up comedy last night, and I was impressed by how talented some of the comedians were, such as early Jim Carey, who I usually can’t stand (because he’s been reduced to doing the most annoying slapstick). Anyway, I got to thinking about talent and visual art, and how that is anathema within today’s art paradigm. That’s something I might want to write about in the future. I’m still working on a piece about the purpose of art (you’ll probably agree with a lot of it), and one about “The Peculiar Redefinition of Privilege” which starts to dismantle some of the overarching claims of the identity politics narrative. Wondering what your ideas are on “talent” and contemporary art, and on the purpose of art (or rather the high purpose of art).

  7. trueoutsider says:

    Hi Eric,

    There’s much to comment on here. I’ll just try to take two points and then, perhaps, carry over to another post after thinking about the other issues.

    Firstly, the Century of the Self was a fantastic documentary. (Hypernormalization isn’t yet available in the US but I’m greatly looking forward to it.) It’s really worth noting the fact that Charles Saatchi started out running Maggie Thatcher’s election campaign. He was the British Michael Deaver. And one can readily observe that the same techniques he used to sell The Iron Lady were employed in his choice of YBAs who he sold both the the Brits and then to the US and then globally.

    When the YBAs came to the Brooklyn Museum the show was called Sensation. How does the show of the personal collection of a British collector come to get major exposure in a NYC museum, thus raising the value of all the various investors hooked up by Saatchi in the first place, who engaged in things like buying out the work of Brit grads and then mainstreaming them through galleries and museums with critics singing the praises of a lot of complete hogwash all designed for maximum eye-catching “products”.

    This was as clear Ponzi scheme as one can imagine. Images of child killers, Virgin Mary with elephant dung, Lucas explicit, Hirst’s circus acts all with a Catholic right-winger mayor guaranteed to create headlines galore, not to mention galvanize the Thatcher/Reaganite right wing to throw out the Democratic bums funding this kind of stuff at the NEA.

    One can’t help but note Saatchi’s genius as an advertiser and con artist. But what does this have to do with any of that stuff being art I’d like to know. That is, if like myself, one eliminates the master con artist Duchamp, who did exactly the same thing as Saatchi and his Brits, not to mention all the American shock and awe meisters. Doesn’t it occur to anyone that the people collecting and promoting all of this rubbish are the 1 percent wealthy elite? Naturally, the “people” love this kind of circus work as they love Barnum and Bailey. Not only Saatchi but Gagosian and every other top 10 big name gallery get this. And the artists jump over themselves to make the most “outrageous” and provocative “shock” work that shocks who exactly? The red state voters are not shocked. They’re sickened and the decadent West and East coasts are a, perhaps the, prime motivator for get out the vote campaigns when election time comes around.

    So this all works just great for everybody. The ruling elite get the value of their investments skyrocketing as the rubes on both coasts pile in to see just what makes them excited. Revolutionary Art! Banksy and Company overthrowing the “establishment” (while being collected by wealthy Hollywood celebrities who are the major buyers for all the “shock and awe”, all of them being such discriminating judges of real art as many, from Tony Bennet to Sylvester Stallone, with his museum retrospectives around the globe, are great artists themselves.)

    In the 1980s buying rings were set up and investors lined up. I knew one of them in a Susan Rothenberg buying ring. Of course they find nothing whatsoever wrong with this. This guy was a coin collector. Earlier in life he had no interest in art whatsoever. But when people who collect coins, guns, antiques or whatever see that art is the thing to collect as the returns on investment are spectacular the Wall Street financiers with their animal spirits unleashed by Reagan here and by Thatcher in Britain (with great help from Saatchi) definitely know how to set up markets overnight that will insure profits.

    It’s too bad a Curtis or someone else has never gone into trying to penetrate how this grotesque buffoonery was established, but a great deal of the problem is that none of it is regulated and there are no “hard” economic data which is the life blood of economic analysis. On top of that art, given what a joke it’s become by now, is hardly anything that any intellectual wants to spend time thinking about or investigating. It’s the perfect thing for pseudo-intellectuals, of course. They can rise to the heights talking perfect gibberish as they have an audience that only speaks gibberish. And to point it out is just to be attacked, avoided, called names and so on, just as every other dumbass believers be they Trump or Hillary fanatics are incapable of any kind of self-criticism or serious analysis.

    And I don’t see that anything I’m saying isn’t perfectly obvious and critical writers like Jean Baudrillard or Guy de Bord when they were alive both were of the same opinion as mine that art jumped shark in the 1960s if not before. Throw in Walter Benjamin and any number of others. Note also that critics like Donald Kuspit and Arthur Danto have written books called “The End of Art.” Kuspit demolishes Duchamp, Newman, Nauman and so on. Of course, given that he earns his bread as an art promoter he then goes on to substitute artists who are even more lame than the ones he demolishes as their work is entirely based on Duchamp/Greenberg aesthetic principles. Coldness, contrivance, banality, sterility and lack of an iota of spontaneity are characteristic of all of them. But that’s the name of this particular art game, isn’t it? Rauschenberg identified it with his smug comment back in the 1960s that the Abstract Expressionists “let their brushstrokes show.”

    That, as far as my definition of art goes, is where the break point was. If people want to call the kind of academic stuff churned out by art academies since then “art” they should stipulate that this “art” has nothing in common with and no connection whatsoever to the “art” of Vincent and company. Emotion and human feeling are key ingredients to all art. Abstraction isn’t even included in the hierarchy of genres that were compiled in the 17th century for good reason. If the category is going to be added in the 20th century it would be placed at the bottom of the hierarchy at best. But abstraction is now and has always been part of the Decorative Arts. Putting dollar signs and absurd theories on top of monochrome paintings and color fields do not make them into high art.

    I know I’m repeating myself, but I’m up against the monolithic Big Lie of Contemporary Art. The Big LIe lives only through repetition. And it’s repeal will only come about through repetition. Otherwise, artists like you and me and anyone else trying to invest their work with some kind of personal vision and deep perceptions and observations of human realities will continue to be marginalized and crushed underfoot by the Big Brother art world that has established itself as the sole arbiter and expert and all-knowing “Decider” of what is and isn’t art. Bullshit.

    OK… enough ranting. I’ve gone on too long in this comment. But have something to say about “talent” after I get through all the holiday stuff, or during it if I can sneak off again. Talent bears directly on all that we’re discussing here. Talent is what the art schools begin crushing in artists from the day they arrive fresh from high school with dreams of becoming great players in the exciting art game. All of them are crushed flat with a year, if they let it happen that is.

    As Charles Bukowski noted, it happens to everyone else as well, pretty much. Note how a propos the last phrase is.

    “At the age of 25 most people were finished. A whole god-damned nation of assholes driving automobiles, eating, having babies, doing everything in the worst way possible, like voting for the
    presidential candidate who reminded them most of themselves.”

    • Eric Wayne says:

      I have many of the same biases as you do, though it might not be fair to call them “biases”. I also think about the bizarre connection between money and art, in which the quality of art is decided by how much it sells for, rather than what the audience gets out of it.

      My art school experience is similar to what you describe. First I went to community colleges, and they weren’t conceptual. So, I was able to get a foundation in drawing and painting (I’d been doing art my whole life, and often rely on skills I taught myself before graduating HS, but here I’m talking academically). Then I went to a university that was too conservative for my tastes, plus I was struggling with the mandatory math requirement. I switched to UCLA and ultimately did quite well, even got a $10,000 Fellowship. However, I wasn’t really doing what I wanted much of the time, but fulfilling assignments and beating the system at its own game. But grad school was my destruction. I want to a radical college that was all bout conceptualism, but much more importantly, identity politics. As as straight white male I was doomed. The only thing I could do without being savaged (I was the ONLY SWM) was conceptual work that “decunstructed my white male privilege”. That’s not why I got into art. This essentially buried my art career. There was a class on how to put together a portfolio and approach galleries, and I didn’t even take it because it was understood that, as a white male, there wasn’t room for me in the art world and I needn’t bother, especially if I wasn’t committed to annihilating myself socially and psychologically, but also being beneath my peers in the struggle. The thing is, I passed the class without taking it, because, everyone understood there was no reason for me to take it. Point is, talent in the traditional sense of image-making was largely irrelevant, or antithetical to what was considered relevant and important art.

      The only reason I make art is the same reason I always did, which is partly to transport myself, to give my imagination expression, to discover, and to see something I want to see that nobody else is making. When I look back now, it’s absolutely ridiculous that I was a pariah in art school, and considered probably the worst artist.

      Can I make a comeback over 20 years later. Yes. Absolutely. I’m doing it. But by me making a comeback is making art that I think is cool, that satisfies my own hunger for vision. If I don’t make money, that sucks, but I remember when I was 18 reading some good novels, and thinking I’d rather write a great novel and die in poverty than write shitty ones and have riches and accolades showered on me. The quest is to make real art, not to get the rewards for having done so, whether one really has or not.

  8. You guys are all good connoisseurs of art and If you want a laugh, take a look at an old British film called ‘The Rebel’ starring Tony Hancock. I think the moral of the story was ‘if you’re going to paint a rich man’s wife make sure you paint her beauty’. The Royal artists have made an impression by always exaggerating beauty, this backfired when King Henry VIII met one of his wives for the first time after viewing a lovely painting, ‘it was a work of heart’, ‘sorry’. I don’t know if the artist was beheaded!
    Also Don, thank you for the Rant on the other page.

    • trueoutsider says:

      I want to check that film out, Sir Keith, as I’ve had it recommended a couple times. Hard to find things for me in my dotage. One of my favorite books ever about the artist’s life is “The Horses Mouth” by Joyce Cary, which was made into a movie starring Alec Guiness as Gulley Jimson (who I believe is intended to be a broad fictionalization of Stanley Spencer but have to research it to see if that’s the case). The movie is good but the book is far, far better as is the case with so many great novels being turned into cinema.

      A good Henry take is the series made from Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall. I’ve only seen a couple episodes but found them really well done, as opposed to so much of the lamentable stuff like Downton Abbey that are sure crowdpleasers as they’re total rubbish.

  9. trueoutsider says:

    I think that all original artists or original thinkers go through what you’re describing, regardless of where they go to school. And particularly in America, which is the most conformist society that’s ever existed despite (or rather precisely because of) all its squawking about being the exceptional nation filled with deeply independent and self-determined people. The squawking is so loud in a vain attempt to convince ourselves that we’re the shining city of great innovators and artists and thinkers, when all one has to go is go from American town to American town and see how little individuality or eccentricity has been left in the wake of the mass corporatization of everything.

    Bukowski is describing his experience back in the 1940s and it makes one aware that as the French say, the more things change the more they remain the same. Lennon’s Working Class Hero expresses basically the same thing as Bukowski does:

    “At the age of 25 most people were finished. A whole god-damned nation of assholes driving automobiles, eating, having babies, doing everything in the worst way possible, like voting for the presidential candidate who reminded them most of themselves.”

    The last phrase there rings particularly true, don’t you think?

    I go along with what you said above, which I think very well put:

    “The only reason I make art is the same reason I always did, which is partly to transport myself, to give my imagination expression, to discover, and to see something I want to see that nobody else is making. When I look back now, it’s absolutely ridiculous that I was a pariah in art school, and considered probably the worst artist.”

    I don’t know about it being ridiculous. I think that it’s often the case that the more original an artist one is, the more of a pariah they are. Look at Cezanne, van Gogh, Roualt, etc.

    What’s strange to me is how Cézanne and van Gogh went from being the biggest outcasts of the art community to being the fountainheads from which Modernism leapt to life. If you look at the fauves, for example, you’ll see that Matisse, Derain, Vlaminck, etc. were directly imitating van Gogh. (I could do a post if you or anyone else is interested just to show the obvious similarities which speak for themselves. And PIcasso and Braque, etc., were, i.e., making lame versions of Cézanne just as the fauves and certain expressionists were making lame van Goghs. This is perfectly obvious as well. Picasso’s cubist period which is what so many critics and artists consider his greatest breakthrough work I find his least interesting by far. I’m almost diametrically opposed, by nature, to what Modern Art has become but also to how it was originally presented by the MoMA dictators.

    Small wonder it’s been entirely demolished, while of course still maintaining the facade that it hasn’t. That somehow while artists are no longer remotely connected to the Ensors, Rousseaus, Cezannes, Munchs and so on who used to inhabit the first rooms at MoMA, there’s this adamant belief that Haring/Basquiat/Schnabel/Rothenberg/Koons ad nauseum are the legitimate heirs of these artists.

    Why no other artists are willing to stare this reality in the face and discuss it, again as far as I’m concerned, is the reason I find “contemporary art” to be entirely finished. The financial barbarians have bought it up lock, stock and barrel. All the concepts are over. How many more minimalist, op arts, photorealists, neo-this or that are giving anybody the frisson that was so marvelous back in the binge days? What are the new “ideas” out there? Who are the new “sensations”?

    As the German video rock star sang, “Thank you, America, for lowering the bar.” The trouble now seems to be that it’s getting increasingly impossible to get the bar any lower. Now we’re stuck looking on at buttplugs and POP brillo boxes and Keith Haring babies and Jeff Koons photos of his jism on his wife’s ass pretending like it’s the greatest art ever made, right? Yes, artists, don’t utter a single word of critique, lest you find yourself on the outs with all the great art lovers and other artists basking in the radiant sun of Contemporary Genius.

    How did that Lennon line go:

    “keep you doped with religion and sex and TV/And you think you’re so clever and classless and free/But you’re still fucking peasants as far as I can see”

    Whatever the Masters at MoMA pick is what is imitated and envied. The art world gives us the PC Liberal religion, which consists of all the sex and TV reality stars imaginable. Andy showed us the way. I need to put up a clip of Andre Gregory in “My Dinner with Andre” where he describes what the 1980s were really like in the art world. A robotic and boring wasteland filled with tedious art school graduates with little to no talent and nothing whatsoever to say other than to parrot what was written in art magazines.

    But let’s all go on pretending otherwise. That the Thatcher Reagan era was when art was finally set free from the old constraints of disciplined work with the wonder drug cocaine and the unrestrained “irrational exuberance” if the New York financial community.

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