What is art? Asking that is among the easier ways for starting an argument. Asking the Oxford Dictionaries gets you:
1the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power:
But dictionaries can’t convey the qualities that keep a work of great art alive in succeeding civilizations over centuries and even millennia. Art professors speak of such things as universality and reflecting the human condition. You may decide for yourself.
Now that you’ve decided, it seems to me, that art has vanished from modern societies, at least in the West. And in my opinion, the era of its disappearance was the 1960’s. You may trace the end of representational graphics to the invention of photography or to the onset of the Progressive era if you wish and those are inarguable factors. But the grave marker for all art in general, remains the recent Age of Aquarius, when everyone under say, 30, decided to let it all hang out…and to trade Christian and Jewish belies with their personal responsibility and stuffy morality for free sex, convenience abortion and deification of the state, all a gift of female contraception via the god: Technology.
And here is the evidence: From that day to this, there are no paintings, there is no music, there is no dance and the only works rising to the status of literature are chronicles of human barrenness and misery. There are no doubt small exceptions here and there; the human spirit is irrepressible. But nothing has reached out to the world, nor seems likely to do that.
Consider this: ART. This overview of painting will, I believe, serve fairly as a comment on the fine arts in general; disagree if you will. However, if art is a reflection of the human condition, how may it exist in a time when the traditional human values are discarded? When the founding Christianity of America and Europe is gone in favor of morally relative materialism, the human spirit is thereby denigrated; what remains is ugly as well as primitive. And those seem fairly to describe what passes today for art.
An artist needs inspiration; something to aspire toward, a message to convey, some belief to proclaim the importance of his comment. Short of those, he is no more than a camera. And of those, we have a great plenty.
It’s notable, I think, that some of the ‘great’ paintings illustrated in the linked article are nothing more than blank, colored squares. They seem more representational than perhaps intended, though one can’t rule out an artist with a sense of humor…
Juxtaposed with this barren artistic horizon is the presently rich fertility of science, that is simultaneously handing humanity an enormous expansion of individuality, especially in communication and opportunities for understanding ourselves while presenting our governments with ever more efficient means for watching, controlling and killing us. This, in times past, would be fertile ground for artists whose work would enlighten us. But it remains today an artistically fallow field; even the prescience of science fiction is reduced to comic-book level. And the work of the scientists themselves is increasingly prostituted by political corruption, well illustrated by the controversies in present climate and environmental ‘science.’
The artists are the goldmine canaries in a society. Ours are telling us something by their very invisibility. But we don’t seem to be listening, or looking. Perhaps the booming tribal drumbeats and meaningless, grunted lyrics of what passes today for popular music is drowning them out… Or perhaps we’re past caring.