| 09 May, 2016 19:11
American Universities saw a wonderful opportunity in the mid-20th century, offering Art Degrees to the growing number of students being convinced they needed college to succeed in the world. Prior to this turn of minds, serious students of art were trained solely in the studios of Masters they would Apprentice with, or Vocational Art Schools that did not offer any degree or any certificate, but they did offer that you would study art with a person who was already a success, great or minor, in the world of Fine Art.
Those academies were plugged into the world of art and they did not teach anything but fine art. No English classes, no history. That a student could get easily in many other teaching venues even without matriculating. In 1960’s New York those art schools were hot beds of Modern art; learning to discard the early academic rigors of drawing realistically as that was merely academic, to roam among the various Avant Garde schools that were forming daily-all still celebrating the liberation from what John Sloane called “the disease of Imitating Appearances!”
The work I now see coming out in New York is academic, when tolerable, infantile, when insufferable.
Today artists are unaware that prior to the 13th Century, artists were stylists, not realists. Stylization gave us our written forms, simple graphic icons derived from centuries of complex pictographs. The emergence of Optical lenses in the early Renaissance saw Patrons demanding more representative images for family portraits and such. Only the invention and proliferation of the Photographic camera in the Mid-19th Century freed the artists to begin the experiments in form and color that was their original birthright. Work created by Piet Mondrian in 1917 has influenced the Industrial Design and Architecture for the last 100 years.
No longer is the goal to continue the progress that began with the Impressionists, and the Post Impressionists, the Expressionists, Surrealists, Dadaists, De Stijl, Bauhaus, Minimalists, Pop Art and Op Art. The first movement that appeared signaling the demise of all progressive modern art came from California, the ultimate surrender to “Imitating Appearances” ever acknowledged as art, emblematically named, “Photo Realism”, at which John Sloane surely turned in his grave. This Photo Realism, or cheap copyism, came from University trained artists. Pop art and Op Art, and all the aforementioned emerged from vocationally trained artists.
Recently I saw an advertisement for an art show that heralded it as representing all “MFA Artists”. And I was horrified. New art schools cater to those convinced being an artist means copious drawings of nudes in conte crayon; drawings made in the rudimentary drawing classes of a place like the Art Students League of New York, where no certificates or degrees were offered.
America is a huge nation. Sadly, regionalization was not a natural thing, it was brought on by a shift in real estate values. New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, San Francisco used to be low rent area and artist could gather there affordably and be near their schools and galleries and more importantly, near one another. That was how movements grew. Cheap spaces encouraged experimental art, theatre, music, dance and poetry.
The corrupting power of Greed was never as apparent as it is in the coyly termed Gentrification of our Cities. We have allowed the demons of Capital to tamper with and destroy the very incubators of all our past creativity, the affordable cities that gave us the likes of Michelangelo, William Shakespeare, Gershwin, Van Gogh, Renoir, Mondrian, Juan Gris, Georges Braque, Leonard Bernstein, John Sloan, Jerome Robbins, George Bellows, Edgar Allan Poe, The Rolling Stones, Lou Reed, Edward Hopper, Andy Warhol, Bette Midler, The Beatles, Theodore Dreiser, James Jim Henson, McNeil Whistler, John Sloan, Barbara Streisand, Will Barnet, Amadeo Modigliani and all the great artists of the past. Our world is being cheated.