Friday, June 23, 2006

flogging on (2)

This is second in a series about the Art Renewal Center.

It seems that for most of the past century, there has been what is best described as a conspiracy, both tacit and willful, to malign and degrade the reputations and artwork produced during the Victorian era and its counterparts in Europe and America. This struggle for the re-appreciation of Traditional Realism continues to the present day.
This is but one among many of the oddly paranoid statements that find so much room to bump into each other in the ARC. I can't say that I am not a big fan fan of conspiracy theories, but this one sounds like Republicans complaining about the liberal press. I don't know anyone who doesn't appreciate traditional realism. It is quite easy to appreciate. Likewise, it is quite easy to appreciate people working for a living, even when I was sipping lattes on one of the coasts in my Volvo.

What makes it so frustrating, and what made me want to understand this site and its mission, maybe even support them, is that I agree so totally that 19th century art is crucially, vitally important right now. Being able to draw bodies and perspectives and figures is crucial to re-awakening the ability to match the world with what we are making it. It is always going to be up to artists to provide one aspect of the near-mystical ability to think, physically, outside the body, and thus continue the terrific tradition we have of providing insight where it is thought that we have only words. It is thought that we have ideas expressed only as words, that our thinking itself is accessible only through verbal language.

And yet, that disaster of a century that we were all just barely lucky enough to live through has ended. And embracing all of its terrific and life-affirming achievements, we must realize that it was the construct of repeated and merciless conflicts that killed hundreds of millions, many of them innocent that set that century apart like no other before it. To create conflict anew, literally to make up conflict in the harshest terms, in the name of art, sounds to me an awful lot like religion. And like the religious, the ARC is intolerant to the extreme and hoping to push forward its agenda not by the soundness of its argument but by the overwhelming thoroughness and extensive reach of its public relations campaign.

There is no end of great art among the extensive archive, there is no end to the great uses to which it can be put; inspiration and like I am always advocating, thinking on paper. I frequently email color documents down to the print shop in my neighborhood so that I can have hard visual facts on the wall of my studio. Not art works, but working documents that help me to think, how does a curve turn a corner, how do the feet of a table rest on the ground, how do dogs look when they run through snow. Looking at them and realizing the intersection of lines and universe is the resolution of conflict. And that is the use of art against the conflict of not knowing.

When the conflict of not knowing is left un-attended then we have to invent an enemy. We have to gear up our PR team to attack where ever they can, and though I cannot draw dogs in the snow, I must attack people who don't understand why I should draw dogs in the snow this way (badly). One can pursue such an agenda through the end of the century, for indeed that is what they did. Rumsfeld's gearing up that the Soviets were mighty and "evil" even as the Soviet Union circled the drain made Ronald Reagan a hero for facing down a decrepit and imaginary evil.

Likewise, ARC, while missing the beauty and potential of their own subject matter, imagines itself opposed, armed with "draftsmanship" while rooting out honesty as thoroughly as does the mob of any MFA open critique. Yes, those MFA students need discipline and draftsmanship. They also need a thorough grounding in what the hell just happened, not since the 80s and the East Village, but since the 1880s or the 1780s. And that history is NOT being taught, not by Yale, not by ARC, not by all the blogs in my roll, except maybe the history blogs... and so here they are (just so i can feel like i am being a little constructive):

I am expecting a couple of good entries to this series over the next few days.
Image: from the ARC musem, John LaFarge (1835-1910), The Adjustment of Conflicting Interests: Count Raymond of Toulouse Swears at the Altar to Observe the Liberties of the City; Color Study for Mural, Supreme Court Room, Minnesota State Capitol, Saint Paul, Watercolor and gouache over graphite, 1903, 7 1/8 x 11 3/8 inches (18.2 x 29 cm), Private collection


  1. Excellent and thanks for th extensive links. I'm excited by this.

  2. Good post. Sounds like over-earnestness on ARC's part? or wanting to pick a fight? Res Ipsa Loquitur.

    Getting through the links, slowly but surely. Thanks for Seeker After Truth blog link too.