Unreal Nature

November 24, 2014

Immediacy and Vitality

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:43 am

… it goes where the most ingenious artists of the moment take it and where the culture’s barriers against change are most vulnerable.

… Art’s primary value does not reside in where it came from or what it leads to, but in what it is.

This is from the end of Modern Art Despite Modernism by Robert Storr (2000):

… Although theorists long ago consigned some of the art in this book to the dustbin of history, in reality it resides in the dust-free storage spaces of The Museum of Modern Art. Bringing this work to light not only offers us the chance to decide for ourselves whether, in spite of its exile, a given painting, sculpture, drawing, or print retains some measure of its former vitality or has gained unanticipated currency because of art now being made. [ … ] Some may flinch at the thought that painting “has come to that” once again, but artists feel no obligation to respect what art lovers desire from habit or art historians foretell. Art does not go where it “should” go; it goes where the most ingenious artists of the moment take it and where the culture’s barriers against change are most vulnerable.

At the present, the fences, walls, and glass houses around modernism are down. Wildflowers have invaded its gardens and conservatories; hothouse flowers are trying their luck in the open fields. Hybrids abound. Someday, no doubt, new structures will be erected, and a sorting out will take place. In the meantime, the myriad strains of modern art flourish, cross-pollination, die back, compost, mutate, and blossom again. If I have taken the risk of employing an organic metaphor for historical process at this juncture, I have done so in order to extend the usual bell-curve model of rise and fall into a cosine oscillation closely resembling the life cycle of most species. A striking difference can be seen between past uses of this basic trope and current circumstances. For in contrast to the sense of decay that characterized the mood of the nineteenth-century fin de siècle, the twentieth century came to an end in an explosion of chaotic fecundity.

… If the history of modern art has taught us anything, it is that, whatever art’s temporary form and relative strength, immediacy and vitality matter more than pure or impure origins and probable outcomes. Art’s primary value does not reside in where it came from or what it leads to, but in what it is. In this regard, Picasso, arguably the greatest modernist of the twentieth century and incontestably its greatest antimodernist, shall have the final say:

I also often hear the word evolution. Repeatedly I am asked to explain how my paintings evolved. To me there is no past or future in art. If a work of art cannot live always in the present it must not be considered at all. The art of the Greeks, of the Egyptians, of the great painters who lived in other times, is not an art of the past; perhaps it is more alive today than it ever was. Art does not evolve by itself, the ideas of people change and with them their mode of expression. … Variation does not mean evolution. If an artist varies his mode of expression this only means that he has changed his manner of thinking, and in changing, it might be for the better or it might be for the worse. The several manners I have used in my art must not be considered as an evolution, or as steps toward an unknown ideal of painting. All I have ever made was for the present.

My previous post from (the beginning of) Storr’s book is here.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: