State of Art

Roger Kimball, writing in The New Criterion, levels a blast at the state of art in the art world. The blogsite Powerline follows up with a scathing post about a new exhibit at Dartmouth. Here is a brief excerpt from the New Criterion piece:

A third additional element in this sorry story has to do with the decoupling of art-world practice from the practice of art. Look at the objects on view in “Wrestle”: almost none has anything to do with art as traditionally understood: mastery of a craft in order to make objects that gratify and ennoble those who see them. On the contrary, the art world has wholeheartedly embraced art as an exercise in political sermonizing and anti-humanistic persiflage, which has assured the increasing trivialization of the practice of art. For those who cherish art as an ally to civilization, the disaster that is today’s art world is nothing less than a tragedy. But this, too, will pass. Sooner or later, even the Leon Botsteins and Marieluise Hessels of the world will realize that the character in Bruce Nauman’s “Good Boy, Bad Boy” was right: “this is boring.”

In my Maymester class, we explored the world of book reviews and literary criticism. It was fascinating to see, in the flow of time and events, the tension in the literary world as new generations of writers came to dominate the scene. As products of their cultural milieu, created by the swirl of events that influenced their world, much as the events of today do to us, each new generation sought a clean break with the sensibilities of their immediate predecessors. In the study of literature, we might read Thomas Hardy and then James Joyce; both are appreciated for their talent and their contributions to the art. Yet, to read the criticism of the period as Hardy wanes and Joyce waxes is to read of bitter exchanges, hurtful words, and utter disdain as the tectonic plates of their cultures clashed. The angst of yesterday has been replaced by today’s understanding of their complementary nature.

So it seems that the current dissatisfaction with the direction of art may spring from the same forces. But, having moved art into a political context, one has to ask if there can ever be, even after the passage of time, a reconciliation between the concepts of beauty and truth, since politics cannot seem to be a constant truth, which, to this amateur, is a hallmark of art.

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