Post 110

Hot (Potato) Art: Reflections on Abstract 'Art'

Right now I have time alone with my thoughts.
What a crowded place this is!

Today I was thinking, again, about abstract art.

You already know what I think about it.

But did you know, that Chesterton named, as the largest, most unfortunate development of his time, the loss of respect for the old masters? While he lived, he watched as ‘experts’ began to attack the work of the old masters, the painters who were not only at the peak of their own game during their own time, but at the peak of the game itself. The critics of his day said that what those Renaissance artists did was too ‘photographic.’ In other words, the moderns of his day came up with a way to insult the greatest artists of all history. According to Chesterton, the effect was, and was going to be, disastrous. He watched as impressionism muscled in. Vagueness and slipperiness and so on and so forth.

When you see something beautiful and scoff at it, calling it cheap or easy or ugly, then you tell a lie. When you tell a lie, you become unhinged from reality, and from Truth. When you separate yourself from beauty, you separate yourself from Beauty. And if you recall, these are all just reflections of what is Good. Truth, Beauty, Goodness.

That’s why it matters.

I don’t have ready access to that article any more. If I did, I’d quote from it. As it is, I hope I’ve nailed it, and represented Chesterton correctly.

(The magazine FI isn’t the only one to dissatisfy, as you see. I also chucked all my copies of Gilbert and won’t resubscribe. Too many writers thinking that they’re on a first name basis with Chesterton – a magazine with too little Chesterton and too much of everyone else. Exasperating after a while.)

And of course, abstract art is much worse than impressionism. It’s been a long and sad game of Emperor’s New Clothes, where nobody gets it, but everyone pretends to. Millions are spent, acquiring and selling and pretending it makes sense.

Let’s call it all off.

For too long have the billionaires collected crappy sculptures and paintings – gloating and hoarding, as if it proved they had taste, as if it proved they had an ‘eye.’

On the contrary, it only proves that you fell for it. You fell for a lie – someone told you it made sense on some level, and in the interests of being ‘in style’ and ‘in the know’ you played along. You could have spent your cash on something that would have made a difference in the lives of other people, but instead, you bought “art” – something weird and then displayed it.

Let’s play something different now.

It’s a new era now.

Can’t you see that it’s spring?

Can’t you feel it? How it begins?

(Let’s call it New Medieval.)

It was a child who cried out, “the Emperor has no clothes!”

Let’s do that again. I think that the eyes of a child – let’s say those of any four-year-old, whose brain and eyes remain unspoiled by excess television or video or media contortions – are an excellent test. Those youngsters know what looks nice. If they can’t understand what’s happening on that canvas or on that pedestal, then let’s be honest: we don’t get it either. Value it at zero.

If they can tell it’s a tree, some flowers, towers or some birds, and the artist concurs, then give it part marks. It’s a start. Now hopefully, the artist has put in the time: made it lovely, compelling, arresting, just like nature itself.

(If the artist himself cannot say what he’s done, in words comprehensible to a child, but must put it all in abstract nouns and layers of ‘mysterious,’ ‘too-lofty-for-you’ jargon, then don’t even waste the time of said child. The dumpster is right behind the building.)

We can call our new game “hot potato.”

This should be interesting, hey Chesterton?

If jogging can change, why not art? Isn’t it about time? The average person on the street has nothing to lose. He ain’t got some portrait of some weird distorted eyeball looking out on his dining room, all shiny and gory and waiting for Architectural Digest to arrive and photograph and praise.

If the average person has something abstract, some lines or some circles, it’s probably just some coloured print-out he picked up at IKEA ($7) because it matched the blue couch. He won’t be choked or lose any sleep.

If I’m wrong, nothing will happen with my idle words (God wouldn’t allow it), and that means, I have nothing to lose in proposing my game.

But if I’m right, then brace yourself Sotheby’s. Brace yourself Christie’s. Some people have something they want to sell, yesterday.

Last one holding abstract art is the loser.


[Note added 9:06 a.m. MST April 19, 2016.

I’ll probably one day regret describing it this way, but I must say, it’s so often so weird being me.

Let me explain.

It is quite usual that about 3 – 10 minutes after posting any post, I feel rather stupid or uncomfortable about having written or posted what I have posted. It seemed so right at the time to write as I did, but then self-doubt swoops down and confiscates that feeling once I’ve sent it in to EfficientOne or hit ‘Publish.’

Not always, but often.

But that’s not my point — it’s just the context.

So then, in that context, it so often happens that my eyes will come upon, over the next few minutes or hours, some token, some object which echoes something I wrote.

Once I wrote a post referring to the letter K and there was a hidden rhyme that showed up in there. Was it okay to do that? I questioned myself. And then I was in traffic behind a car with a license plate K dash such-and-such. The K was red (just like in my post) and separated from the rest of the letters on the plate.

I was amused, and, God knows, I am the type that would take such a thing as a sign, as a little wink-wink blessing.

He knows how my little brain works, yet he allowed me to see that. (He thinks it’s funny.)

Then another time I referred to Milli Vanilli and later that morning, I saw a fellow cross right in front of my vehicle wearing a t-shirt of Milli Vanilli. These types of “coincidences” happen to me

    all the time.

I wrote about it in one of my very earliest posts.

You would almost think I’d get used to it, and on some level, I have, but it’s not something one gets used to because the little coincidences are so unexpected and quirky.

The reason I go on about this so much here is that I had no sooner posted my last post when I came across a flyer from IKEA. Now to set the stage further, I should not have a flyer from IKEA, because there is a sign in my mail slot that I do not accept unaddressed ‘mail.’ But there it was. On the front cover are the words “IKEA – the Bedroom Event. April 18 – May 16.” I did not know this when I wrote and believe me, I did not see this flyer prior to writing last night. On the wall behind the bed are three pictures. One is of a tree. Another is of colorful dots, or arguably, candy in a dispenser or something like that (check with the four-year-old) and the other is a fuzzy no-signal mess of some kind. In any case, they’re small, the kind that might cost $7. And of course, to top it off, inside this IKEA flyer are the words, “Don’t lose sleep about it.”

God jokes around –

    all the time.