Tuesday, April 18, 2006

abstraction and american wiring

Something relatively outrageous about the US government mounting an exhibit about Dada. Tyler Green's review nearly does it justice, certainly his tone is fitting. Green does us the service of linking to Blake Gopnik's piece in, of all places, the Washington Post. I'd reccomend skipping that one.

There are numerous reasons for the split with European thinking and surrealism in the advent of Abstraction Expressionism. Of course there are simple reasons like the CIAs involvement which you can read about elsewhere. Probably more important, as Gopnik's fun Public Relations- style brochure typing shows, the English speaking world is less wired for the hard truth about reality than the continent. Prim, proper English would rather not trouble with the gore in which the ruined continent seemed every generation to immerse itself.

So whether I am talking about Dada after the first or Abstract Expressionism after the second world war, after-all, we are trying to tell a story and that story is one of American triumph, not one of other peoples' misery. Whether the misery be Jackson Pollocks at the hands of a psychoanalyst or Hans Richter, god-knows where, all of it is inconvenient to the myth being created, until later, in Pollock's case, when drama is needed for the secondary market campaign on the soap opera.

You see the danger of giving something like this Arp piece to people with no knowledge of history. A bit like giving a car to a 7 year old and then asking him to teach driver's education. I am still particularly fond of Robert Hughe's comparing the lack of training given American artists to a pandora's box. 2 generations on and we have nothing to show for it but a stream of Yale graduates whose MFAs shine mightily like Wharton Business School diplomas. And these Yalies will be as quick to defend Wharton, which not only teaches nothing but lacks even the ridiculous self-reflective mirror that Yale so amply polishes every year.

Ah, but in Wilde's cliche, those of us screaming the loudest just want in. Part of the reason I am writing more now, is because I believe we are truly staring at the collapse of the US constitution. I don't advocate for this or for anything outside of understanding in the arts. Far and broad understanding I hope. I am going to venture closer to understanding "un-intentionality" in the next post but for now I think it might be helpful to send out some life-rafts to the so many of us not simply drinking in the lounge trying to ignore the odd pitch of the ship's bar.

Illustrations are from the National Gallery of Art's page on the Dada exhibit.

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