James Lileks raises a good point today in his Bleat.
I am amused by smart people who defend uncouthness on the grounds that it’s honest. (Hypocrisy, after all, is a cardinal sin. Or would be if there were such things.) Dennis Prager was talking today about a dance troupe whose work is mostly base and gross, complete with naughty shocking words and on-stage wanking. They were lauded by critics for their honesty, of course. (The entire cultural top-tier crew, at least in the media, has the values of a Playmate. Turn-offs: Phony people.) I have no problem with the artists, since I don’t expect much from them anymore; those who add to the sum of ugliness are welcome to do so, but they have made themselves irrelevant. I do have a problem with the critics who applaud breaking taboos and stepping over lines, because it’s the cultural establishment – whatever that is – that has celebrated and enabled the decline of art in the 20th century.
No artistic standard, once erased, as has ever been replaced by a more technically demanding one.
Unless you believe that it is harder for a layman to fake a later DeKooning than a J-L David.
Anyway. It’s not so much the redefinition of standards that bothers me as the glee with which the old standards are trashed, and the sense that the arts have become unmoored from the larger culture.
To provide some context to Lileks’ comparison, here is probably the most famous piece by J-L David, and the most famous one by Willem de Kooning.
I have already discussed my definition of art, even tho it is more of a reverse definition — if I can do it without talent and/or training, then that ain’t art. And when I look at Marat Assassinated or his The Death of Socrates, I recognize that I do not have his talent for painting. But too many of the modern artists produce “art” that I would find very little difficulty to fake.
I was in a good mood as I started to write this, but looking at modern art can really wind me up. I guess I have a hard time getting past the snooty pretentiousness of the art reviewer. I linked to Jackson Pollock’s One: Number 31 as an example of something I could fake up without talent or training, so it doesn’t fit my definition of art. Here is the description at the Museum of Modern Art’s web site for Pollock’s piece:
The Surrealists’ embrace of accident as a way to bypass the conscious mind sparked Pollock’s experiments with the chance effects of gravity and momentum on falling paint. Yet although works like One have neither a single point of focus nor any obvious repetition or pattern, they sustain a sense of underlying order. This and the physicality of Pollock’s method have led to comparisons of his process with choreography, as if the works were the traces of a dance. Some see in paintings like One the nervous intensity of the modern city, others the primal rhythms of nature.
Eh, primal this.
To wrap this up, I will quote a bit of pretentiousness my wife found the other day:
TASTING NOTE: A mild aroma with tones of exotic wood, dried fruit and spicy notes. With a delicate, persistent flavour, well proportioned and full. Highlighting tones of cedar, tobacco and raisins.
When TPK read this tasting note to her sister, she guessed it was written about a wine. The surprise comes from realizing that it comes from the back of a dark chocolate bar wrapper. I think the note is a way of justifying the cost of the chocolate. It is, after all, “The ultimate dark chocolate experience.” I just think TPK is a sucker for dark chocolate.